Meet The Women of The Blockchain: Nydia Zhang, Co-founder of Social Alpha Foundation
When I first mooted the idea of setting up the Social Alpha Foundation in 2016, I started to invest and dive into the blockchain space. Since then it’s exciting to see how blockchain has evolved from an underground fintech culture to a social phenomenon today. However, the general public’s understanding of blockchain is still fixated by the market and the price of cryptocurrencies rather than the underlying technology. As someone who has been fortunate enough to be in the space early, I think it’s time for me and other community leaders to take on the responsibility of giving back; reshaping and reintroducing the image of blockchain, supporting blockchain projects that tackle social welfare issues and trying to make the world a better place.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nydia Zhang, Co-founder and Chairman of Social Alpha Foundation, a not-for-profit, grant-making platform which focuses on supporting blockchain education and outreach to empower communities to utilize blockchain technology for social good. Founded in Hong Kong in 2017 by Nydia Zhang and Jehan Chu, SAF provides no-strings funding to companies and projects that educate communities on blockchain for social change. SAF also gives grants to non-commercial blockchain applications that focus on improving public health, education and the environment. Successful applicants will receive financial grants ranging from US$10,000 to US$100,000 with no interest charged and no repayment obligations. Funding for grants will be raised in cryptocurrency from individuals and commercial projects that have executed successful token sales, creating a channel for donors to adopt corporate social responsibility practices. For more information, visit https://www.socialalphafoundation.org
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am the Co-founder and Chairman of Social Alpha Foundation, a not-for-profit, grant-making platform supporting blockchain technology for social good. I am also a board member of the fundraising committee at the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC), a member of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong, and I sit on the Global Patrons board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A graduate of the University of Washington, I am also a cryptocurrency investor and blockchain enthusiast.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Social Alpha Foundation recently provided $30,000 of prize money to winners of a Blockchain Hackathon at the Impact Summit — a social impact themed student conference that gathered 300 computer science students from the top 20 universities in the US.
The aim of the Social Alpha Foundation Blockchain Hackathon event was to inspire and empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs to develop their own blockchain project and explore how they can leverage their technical talents for social good.
The winners this year showed a strong understanding of how blockchain technology can help social welfare issues, with the winning projects focusing on refugee ID, social voting, and a decentralized crowdfunding system.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I will always be grateful to everyone who agreed to come on board Social Alpha Foundation as vetting committee members, advisors, and partners at the very beginning. I approached them with a one-page vision paper and a half-finished deck and they trusted me with their time and resources. For that, I will always be grateful.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
1. Non Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) are unique asset tokens in which every token has its own separate identity. Crypto Kitties, collectible NFT cats that can breed with each other, is one of the first breakout examples with some of the cats selling for over USD $150,000.
2. Security Tokens including stocks, bonds, and traditional financial instruments being traded as tokens.
3. Better UI/UX — Crypto apps are getting better and easier to use, with apps like the Jaxx wallet and IMToken making it more convenient for people to hold and trade crypto.
4. Content — Increased media coverage on the blockchain industry and crypto culture is helping to lift the veil on a previously hidden subculture and educating more and more people about the power of this cutting-edge technology and how it can be utilized.
5. Regulation — More regulation means governments are taking crypto seriously and, in doing so, making it clearer for businesses to operate. Healthy regulation, which encourages innovation and creativity, is a very welcome move.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
- Technology — Cutting edge technology like blockchain is still in the very early stages and will take more time to develop. In the meantime people expect it to be a completely finished platform and it’s not so I hope that people will have patience while the technology advances.
- Hacking — We need to take security very seriously. People new to crypto are not used to having to be so careful about personal security, and that makes it easier for hackers to steal crypto from mainstream users.
- Price volatility — Price swings can wipe out careless speculators who are not accustomed to a market that typically swings 5–20% in a single day. Only invest what you are willing to lose!
- Regulation — Hasty legislation can hinder growth in this fast-moving industry. We have seen this happen with New York’s Bitlicense which set the city’s crypto landscape back by several years.
- Patience — Blockchain is still such a young and emerging technology that it’s important for us to set a rational expectation and give it the time it needs to grow and develop.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
When I first mooted the idea of setting up the Social Alpha Foundation in 2016, I started to invest and dive into the blockchain space. Since then it’s exciting to see how blockchain has evolved from an underground fintech culture to a social phenomenon today. However, the general public’s understanding of blockchain is still fixated on the market and the price of cryptocurrencies rather than the underlying technology.
As someone who has been fortunate enough to be in the space early, I think it’s time for me and other community leaders to take on the responsibility of giving back; reshaping and reintroducing the image of the blockchain, supporting blockchain projects that tackle social welfare issues and trying to make the world a better place.
What 3 things would you advise someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
1. Don’t waste time — Time is the only true enemy. Streamline your interactions as much as possible and don’t waste time with time wasters. Learn how to recognize true opportunities and focus on them. Don’t chase every rainbow, and don’t get distracted by everyone pitching you a new idea.
2. Network — In an emerging industry like blockchain, personal connections are your most valuable capital. Spend time, learn from and interact with the influencers in your industry. Be generous and helpful to people without asking for anything in return. It will come back around tenfold.
3. Do what you love — You’ll never work harder or smarter than at something that truly moves you. If you’re not sure if you’re really committed to something, it means you’re not. Take time to find a mission that resonates with who you are, not with who you think you should be.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Melinda Gates. I’m a big TED Talks fan and Melinda’s talk on ‘What non-profits can learn from Coca-Cola’ is my favorite. After listening to her speak it got me thinking about how to create an efficient business structure inside of a non-profit organization, as well as inspiring me to be a female leader like her.
Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the CEO of Thought Leader Incubator, a leading business incubator based in Maryland.
Yitzi is the author of five books and is the Editor-In-Chief of Authority Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and contributed to Forbes and The Huffington Post. In 2017, he created the popular, “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series that highlights the lessons learned from the experiences of high-profile entrepreneurs and public figures.
Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher, and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.