Transcription Episode 45

Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Living on Blockchain. Today we are speaking to Zara Zamani. She is the Chief Solution Architect for ChromaWay or Chromia.

It’s a layer 1 solution that is making a lot of waves in the way it is creating and building on its ecosystem. She’s had an incredible journey so far from, you know, working in a completely different sector, then transitioning to Web3. A very insightful conversation is heading your way.

So I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. Let’s go right at it. Hi Zahra, how are you? Hi, I’m great.

Thank you. Hope you’re doing great too. I’m doing wonderfully well.

Thank you so much for asking. It’s so good that you know you could make time for this particular recording. For our listeners, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you’re building? Sure.

Hi everyone, I’m Zara and I’m CSO, Chief Solutions Officer at ChromaWay. And I always call ChromaWay the leading Nordic blockchain company. But if I want to be honest, we can also call ourselves the leading blockchain company of North Europe.

We are creators of Chromia, which is a permissionless public blockchain layer 1 and simultaneously building multiple different dApps to expand Chromia’s ecosystem once, hopefully soon in the future. And that means we have a quite big portfolio of blockchain gaming, real estate organization, fashion tech now. So a lot of exciting projects on the table, basically.

All right. Awesome. Awesome.

So, you know, you mentioned that you’re building Erdene presently. What were you doing before this and how did you get into Web3? Are you asking my own personal journey of how I got into the Web3? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Yeah. Well, if I tell you my journey, I started my career in a totally different industry in oil and gas industry.

So I have a technical engineering background. And I started my career as a field engineer in oil and gas industry, working with the biggest service company in the world, Schlumberger. I was a field engineer, like hardcore field engineer with coveralls and helmets on offshore, middle of nowhere.

Wow. That’s quite a leap from there to Web3. Yeah, it is.

It is quite a big leap. But I would say there is, of course, a tremendous amount of differences, but there’s a lot of similarities of the spaces as well. So I started my career as a field engineer.

Throughout that, I have traveled around the world a lot, worked in many different countries and gained a lot of patience in, you know, working with people of different cultures, different understanding, different backgrounds, you know, different education levels, et cetera. So and then working in a very, very male dominant industry. At the time that I was a field engineer in oil and gas, there was only three percent of the engineers globally were female engineers.

And I never worked in any other project that there was another single female engineer on the job. So we only met other female engineers in the training centers. But after some time, some years of being in that space, which I absolutely loved and I enjoyed.

And that’s when I particularly worked in India, too. Yeah. And I enjoyed that job.

But then you come to a point that, you know, you go to a bar and you can’t talk to people like there is no conversation. And I always wanted to make a change in the world. And then, you know, you come to a point that you have a great career, you are in a very good environment, et cetera.

But you’re not at least I didn’t feel like I’m changing the world. Like I was like, OK, what am I doing with my life? After some years, I was like, OK, I need I need to make a change here. I was just getting into my comfort zone, which was quite dangerous for me because I left my family alone when I was a teenager to study abroad.

And then, you know, now going back to comfort zone as an adult, as a professional, it was totally a no no for me. And then I was like, OK, what am I interested in? I always had interest in tech. And what do I do? And I traveled a little bit around the country of my birth country, which is Iran.

I am originally from Iran. And I noticed that Iran was really, really weak with travel tech. I was like, OK, let’s start a travel tech in Middle East.

And that’s what I did. So I started my own business in 2010. I started the travel tech fintech company when we started with travel tech first.

And then eventually when you do travel tech, eventually you have to do a lot of fintech work because your customer is in another country. Your supplier is in another country and your company is basically aggregator and service provider is in the country. And you cannot really, you cannot, you have to do a lot of international settlements.

So you manage, you realize that sometimes you’re developing more payment APIs than actually travel APIs. So that’s how we became a fintech company. And from starting from 2014, then I fell into the, no, I don’t want to call it into the trap of it.

No, but I stepped into the beautiful and challenging journey of blockchain in my own fintech business. And that’s when we started developing late 2014, early 2015, we started building on blockchain. We started building a tourism platform.

Basically, it was, we were building on Ethereum. Ethereum smart contracts were very, very, very newly launched. And we launched that platform in 2017.

But we had to shut it down after a few months because at the moment, the governments were all afraid of crypto. And it wasn’t regulated. And they were all very skeptical to it.

But I knew that I stepped into a journey that I fell in love with the technology because I was not a politician. I was not an activist. I was not a human rights activist, but I was a technologist.

And the only thing that would let me go for my passion and actually make the change in the world that I wanted always was blockchain technology. So it was like I found my passion with blockchain. So I decided to do more with blockchain.

And then I moved to Sweden because at that moment, Sweden was having a lot of innovation, research funds, etc. I started my PhD in blockchain adoption in Hamsa University in South Sweden and started working with multiple different companies in Sweden in building blockchain solutions. So I have built blockchain solutions in healthcare, supply chain, all the way to energy distribution.

And now a lot of games and, you know, DAOs and like I said, fashion takes us and metaverse, etc. So that is pretty much my journey from oil and gas industry to Web3. The similarities of these spaces are both spaces are extremely male dominant and also male masculine in culture.

So that is the similarity for sure. And that’s probably why I could manage it in Web3 because I was very ready for that culture. Right.

You already had the requisite training. Yeah. All right.

Awesome. So that’s quite a journey. You know, you’ve been around for a while as well.

So, you know, you’ve been around since 2014 in the Web3 space when it wasn’t even called Web3, I think. What is your take on how the industry has perhaps evolved? Oh, my God. It has evolved a lot.

In 2016, I was speaking in a conference about blockchain. And I remember I came down the stage and there was this gentleman who approached me and told me, but you’re a smart engineer. You couldn’t find a job.

And I was like, what does he even mean? He thought that I was an engineer who didn’t find a job and I had no other choice to join a fraud company or a fraud industry, you know. And this was the understanding of this industry. And then we had to we had to do a lot of education.

I always thought I would make a horrible person as an educator. But then since I stepped into the blockchain world, I have to say for the first three or four years, 90 percent of my work in blockchain was education, like educating people, creating awareness. And I can only really say the real change that we that started make making us happy in this space was it happened with introduction of NFTs.

When NFTs were introduced in blockchain world, then it was what now we had one solid application that a non tech savvy person could get involved with. Before that, it was all tech savvy people. Like if you could understand the complexity of it and it was communicated by technical people, it was always very difficult for business oriented people to understand it.

We still have those challenges, but it got much, much easier after NFTs. And it changed the game that way, you know, the blockchain became more relatable for people who were perhaps not from tech. And, you know, perhaps we’re looking to explore this.

It became a new approachable way to perhaps approach, you know, get into this space or the tech. Yeah, so yeah, please go ahead. Yeah, I think for so many reasons.

One, because NFTs were now an application that, like I said, non tech savvy could understand it. But also, finally, now we had a reason for a lot of women to step into this space as well. Right.

And I think NFTs really, really created not only women, created a lot of gender diversity in the space of blockchain, which is amazing to see. Because it’s, you know, we have in the cultural studies, scientific cultural studies, we have Posted, who is a very well known cultural scientist. And he he has idea of feminist culture versus masculine culture.

And masculine culture is where the culture that is very much concentrating around power and wealth and money. And, you know, and feminine culture is a lot around sharing and caring. In my perspective, blockchain in my perspective, blockchain technology is a very feminine technology because it’s actually about sharing and caring.

It’s actually about including the community in the economy that you create is actually about, you know, sharing the value, basically, that you create. But also definitely has, you know, the wealth creation involved with it. But it’s it’s decentralized, it’s distributed.

So it’s by nature is more feminine technology, I believe, blockchain. And it was it was and is still definitely sad to not see many women in this space, of course. Yeah, it is.

But, you know, this is such a beautiful way of putting it. And I’ve actually never heard this before, that, you know, blockchain is more of a feminine technology than masculine. And, you know, when I think about it, it makes so much sense.

It’s just I think the perception that gets that that that is around blockchain technology and Web3 is that, you know, it is a space for perhaps the more technically sound, which is a perception that I actively try to break, because I think that, you know, this is an entire sector and there are people from all skill sets that are required. And if we can perhaps, you know, say this enough, then maybe more people will get it and it’ll become even more inclusive because the people, there will be people coming in from different talent pools. Exactly.

Definitely. And I think one of the major problems we have today is actually what you just mentioned, that we have not been able to communicate the technology and the values that the technology creates in the in different languages. And when I say different languages, I mean in business language, in marketing language, in sales language, in tech language, in, you know, education language, in a language that people of different skill set and profession can understand it.

Because what we try to communicate as technologists often is a very technical language. Right. Which is not interesting for people like an average person does not care what technology they’re using in the service that they’re using.

What they care is what values are created for me if I’m using. And that is the language we need to shift in communication. But also, I think we will only see the real mass adoption or the boom of Web3 if we manage to.

I always say if we manage to wed Web3 backend with Web2 frontend, we will succeed. Yeah, you know, that’s absolutely true. Yeah.

If we can bring in, you know, user experience, user interface of existing solutions in Web2 backed up with Web3 technology, then that is what we need. 100 percent. I think I completely agree here.

You know, Web2 folks, they kind of get into this echo chamber and we feel that, you know, this is entirely new. So we have to do everything differently than Web2, which I disagree with. I think, you know, Web2 fundamentals or fundamentals across, right, creating any business.

I think they remain the same, be it a business in Web2 or Web3 or any other sector. And there are certain things that Web2 is obviously doing right. And, you know, we would be doing the service to ourselves if we do not take on those traits.

Oh, 100 percent. I’m definitely against some of those extremists that think, OK, now you have a Web2, let’s scrap it and throw it away and start building a Web3. No, actually, I don’t agree with that.

I think where we are in Web2, if you look at the past 15 years, it has been tremendous amount of improvement and innovation, seriously valuable innovations being done in Web2 as well. So we should embrace them. We should embrace them and we should use what is existing and is perfectly working is great and back it up with another great technology, Web3, right, to make it even better.

Yeah, it’s all about evolving the tech, right. It’s all about making it easier and better. And obviously, you know, you don’t just make things better from like, you know, by inventing the wheel all over again.

If there is something good that has been done, let’s carry it with us and add to it and make those incremental changes. Exactly. I think that is definitely what we need to do.

We need to learn to, like you said, evolve. And also, but then what is very tricky in that evolvement and one of my biggest concerns, actually, in the world of Web3 is inclusion, because it seems like that evolvement or development of Web3 technology, or a lot of that around the world right now is very much concentrated to certain geographical regions, which is quite tricky because the question is, are white men now building the virtual world that non-white men, people around the world are going to live in it? So, you know, that is a question, right? And that is actually a risk for me because, like I said, I have a very diverse background, lived in many different countries. And for me, inclusion and diversity is extremely important.

I don’t want to end up in a virtual world, which I believe all of us will end up living in a virtual life soon in the future. But I do not want to live in a life, in a virtual life that all of the ethics of that room is set by a certain culture. And I think that is a big risk.

The ethics and, you know, cultural design and social design of the future on blockchain in Web3 is actually a risk at the moment, is at risk at the moment. Absolutely. I think, you know, we are pretty early and, you know, this is the right time to plant these seeds and ensure that, you know, we do not end up perhaps like, you know, Web2 where it became like just a white man’s world primarily.

And, you know, when you think about technology companies, you think about all of these founders and they are in one geography and they’re mostly, you know, the gender ratio is very skewed. So we don’t want that same thing to happen in Web3. We would want to do things differently.

And that is where perhaps, you know, we should not take a cue out of Web2 and do things differently in Web3. Exactly. Definitely.

And Web3 by default does allow, of course, a lot of contribution and is by default more inclusive and, you know, brings more diversity. But we just need to make sure that this diversity does not end in participation, but also goes beyond that. It goes into the creators, builders, funders and entrepreneurs.

Right. Absolutely. So as I keep saying, I think this entire industry is in its infancy.

It’s very early. So we need to basically plant the right seeds, make sure that, you know, we have the foundation. Right.

And the foundation, the bedrock has to be on because this is a distributed technology. It needs to be on the basis of inclusion and making sure that, you know, we are putting we are not just pushing out content, which is too esoteric, too niche. So that this is this technology becomes more approachable because ultimately any technology evolves or any, you know, leap and bound that happen in any sector.

They are happening for a purpose and the purpose is to make life better. Absolutely. Absolutely.

So, you know, now that we’ve touched upon the philosophical side of things, what is like what is the next big thing for Chromia? Like what what are you guys looking at as your next big milestone? Well, the next biggest milestone for us is Chromia, basically the mainnet coming soon next year, early next year, hopefully. And then and I think in terms of the portfolio of what we’re building, we are very excited about our new initiatives in fashion tech and e-sport, which also includes a lot of gaming for sure. Right.

OK, that’s that’s wonderful. So, you know, your mainnet is still a little far off, like, you know, you’re planning to get to mainnet perhaps in the coming year, as you mentioned. So in the meantime, what are the active steps that you guys are taking to build the ecosystem and make sure that the mainnet launches a super success? Of course, we have different groups and different work groups and initiatives that are working on preparing the ecosystem, you know, and also making sure that, you know, once our mainnet MVP is launched, at least it’s as distributed and as decentralised as possible.

But simultaneously, we do a lot of different efforts. We have an investment leg that is looking into attractive projects to onboard on Chromia. We have our innovation lab that is running multiple twice a year incubation programmes with every time 20 plus companies taking part into, you know, for educating and potentially adding and onboarding those projects on Chromia ecosystem as well.

And we have been building different ventures that will definitely thrive in the ecosystem of Chromia once the mainnet is launched. But we have, like I said, we have been actively working on this. And I think we will probably be one of the very rare projects that have a quite big ecosystem before mainnet is launched already.

Okay, awesome. Awesome. I think, you know, community becomes, I think we all agree that community is the very intrinsically important part when you’re building something in Web3, considering, you know, the products take time to go live.

But at least, you know, you have like a ready audience and early adopters. So you guys seem to be doing like a fabulous job there. Now, considering this is this is like a very cliched question that I get asked a lot.

And, you know, I would like to know from you as somebody who is behind Chromia and, you know, part of their core team, how do you ensure that, you know, you are keeping your team very inclusive? Like, are there any tricks and tips that, you know, perhaps you can give to the fellow, give to our fellow founders to make sure that inclusion becomes their baseline as well when they are expanding their team? Oh, yeah. Well, definitely. I have to say, I am really, really proud of how inclusive our team is.

Currently, our team is we have the team members in 27 countries. And I can say I have never seen in any other tech or blockchain company the number of female colleagues that we have in like Chromway. And this is brilliant, for sure.

I think it’s it’s the matter of actively practicing it. So we we care a lot about how we place our recruitment at. We care about the language that we communicate to the public, because what a lot of tech companies don’t pay attention to is when you start, when you want to recruit people, the language you communicate, the positions is extremely important in how different genders look at that position.

So we make sure that the language that is used in our recruitment is inclusive enough, but also constantly make sure that, you know, keep the teams also diverse in terms of skill set, in terms of gender, in terms of sometimes even age. I have to say we have different people in the company of different age ranges, sure, as well. And but constantly our HR team is also looking into bring onboarding different solutions.

That’s recently I know there was a discussion with an AI partner on potentially measuring inclusion through our informal communications in the company and taking actions for making the company more inclusive, for sure. So inclusion and diversity is extremely important for us, not only because we want to say, OK, look at us. We are a super diverse company, but because this actually brings a lot of different perspectives, mindsets, skill sets to the company.

And this is exactly what we need in a crypto company, because we have to what we need to remember is that everything we’re building in this space, we are almost the first ones who are doing it. And it is not impossible if you’re doing this with a team that everyone thinks alike. You have to have different people with different mindset and mentality in that team, unless this will not be a success.

Absolutely, I think diversity, inclusion, they’re very important so that, you know, you are looking at things differently. It’s very important that, you know, to build a successful venture, to have a different kind of opinions and perhaps disagreements as well on the table, because everybody brings their own perspective, right? If you’re just picking out people from the same demographic and then then, you know, your scope is very limited. The only way to expand it and thereby expand your solution that you’re building is to make a more inclusive team.

Exactly. Definitely. So when it, you know, we talked about inclusion in this space.

What is your take about, you know, on the bear market and on the projects that are coming out right now? Like, do you do you have an opinion there? Do you have any favorites? Well, we are a company that survives quite a number of bear markets. Yeah. Yeah.

So in that sense, well, I always believe and I think this is what we also see in a way that bear market is when you build. Right. And bull market is when you sell what you build.

So and then also, of course, bear market is the time that a lot of enthusiast people who just joined for the hype of it will go away and the real builders will stay. Right. Those who stay are the real builders.

And I think it’s it’s great to concentrate on what is coming up in the next bull market, what is going to be attractive in the next bull market. And we are doing that constantly in Cromwell and build for that, prepare products for when is the right time to launch them in the market. And that is what we are constantly doing now in Cromwell.

Of course, we are also optimizing our focus. Right. We’re not starting plenty of new initiatives like we might have done before.

We are more cautious about the initiatives we start, but by no means we have definitely not stopped our innovation exploration. So we are still starting new initiatives, but more cautious. We are still building a lot of new products that we will launch them when it’s the right time to do so.

Right. Yeah, that I think is very sound advice. And in general, I think the folks have been around for a while and they’ve seen multiple cycles.

Everybody seems to have the same take that, you know, this is the time to build and the noise kind of dies down. So a build right now and sell in the coming cycle. That is good advice.

But if you have to and if you must choose like perhaps some of the projects that you feel are really doing right and they would survive this bear market and be there in the next full cycle, who would you put your money on? You mean from Cromwell portfolio? Absolutely. From Cromwell or otherwise, like, you know, the projects that you feel very confident about. Yeah, I personally believe the next bull run is a lot about IP and Web 2.5, actually.

And I explained to you what I mean by Web 2.5. So and by IP, what I mean is in the next bull run, we will see a lot of IP holders or IP owners joining Web3 space. A lot of big brands, a lot of celebrities, a lot of big names. And the projects who are actually now in the bear market securing IPs to their projects, they will definitely do very well in the next bull run.

And I think that is a key success point for the next bull run. And in Web 2.5, I think solutions that are enabling normies to step into Web3, right? I think that the previous bull run was a lot concentrated around crypto community. I think the next bull run is a lot concentrated about Web 2.5 community, people who know a bit about what is happening, but they don’t know how to do it.

So if you, in your project, you are actually enabling or smoothening the transition of normies from Web2 to Web3, which I call Web 2.5, then you will do well in the next bull run. Wow, yeah, that sounded right. I think that is the way to go.

I do agree completely that the last cycle was completely token focused and it was a lot about, it was just a lot of HOMO and all about all the capital that was there in the market. But I do believe that with every cycle, the maturity that is there in the space increases. And I do think that, you know, now we are coming to a point where people who are perhaps building sound solutions that are actually easing the life of their potential user.

Those are the ones that will actually now be able to take their cake and eat it too. Wonderful. So, you know, we are kind of now coming to a close on this recording, but I do have two more questions before I would like to wrap it up.

Are there any content creators or influencers, perhaps influencers is not the right word, but content creators that you feel are really doing it right in terms of creating content, which makes the tech more approachable perhaps? Content creators, there is a lot. Even builders, you know, even builders like anybody who think that, you know, our listeners should follow and listen to, you know, because what they are saying is making the tech more approachable. Yeah, well, definitely as a CSO of Chromaway, I’m going to be biased and say definitely follow Chromia and the projects within Chromia ecosystem, like My Neighbor Alice, Minds of Dalarna, you know, and more projects from Chromia ecosystem.

But also I’m going to be biased again, because I’m also co-founder of Neoki Multimetaverse, open world multimetaverse platform, and which is very much focused on the world of design and working very, very closely with brands, designers, artists, premium designers, celebrities, influencers and all. And I think what they are definitely doing in Neoki is a lot of, like I said, Web 2.3, 2.5, 2.7 solutions just to help people to take the leap from Web 2 to Web 3. And I definitely suggest people to follow Neoki and watch what they’re doing. Awesome.

We’ll be sure to put the link to their social media in our description as well so that our listeners can give them a follow. Now coming to, you know, my last question, this is something that I ask everybody that comes on this podcast, that if you have somebody who’s peering in from Web 2 and probably thinking about making a leap into Web 3, what would be your suggestions or advice to this person so that they can start living on blockchain? Like learn and learn to have self-learning, because I receive a lot of questions that, you know, oh, where do I learn this? Where do I learn that? And that is actually the question you don’t need to ask, because now we have a bunch of material, like you can really learn about things. Learn, follow the influential people of the space, look at what they are talking about, you know, see the latest trends, make sure the sources that you’re learning from are updated, because this space changes overnight.

So you really have to keep up with the latest education material, but learn and be aware that this is a very high-paced, evolving space and things change and that if you don’t know, if you can’t find out the answer to questions, then you can definitely, you know, get involved into many different forums that people are sharing. One of the most amazing things about Web 3, there is a tremendous amount of knowledge sharing. There’s a lot of different resources, like your podcast itself, that you can actually listen to, you can watch, you can read and learn and do things.

Yeah. I think that’s very sound advice. I think being open to learning is very important if you’re trying to get into Web 3, because, you know, as you said, this is a very dynamic space and things keep changing.

They change almost within hours. And if you are somehow closed off and not open to unlearning, perhaps, then you would become really obsolete very quickly in this space. Yeah, exactly.

And I was just about to say that you mentioned it’s also when you are open to learning means you definitely need to be open to unlearning too. Absolutely. Yeah, there’s a lot of us that come with very stiff, centralized mentalities to Web 3. And a lot of us try to, you know, force, enforce very centralized, old-fashioned Web 2 business models to Web 3, which it doesn’t work.

There’s a lot of brilliant stuff from Web 2 to bring to Web 3, but some of the business models simply doesn’t work in Web 3. So you have to really unlearn and then, you know, replace those with new methods. So learning and unlearning both are the key. Very important.

Absolutely. So thank you so much once again, Zahra, for taking the time to speak to us. Any parting thoughts before we wrap this up? Sure.

Thank you for inviting me. And I hope that everyone who is listening to this will get excited about Web 3. If they’re not in Web 3 space, and if they are already in Web 3 space, stay strong, have faith. Absolutely.

I can’t agree more. So thank you once again, Zaara. This has been a very, very insightful chat.

Thank you so much.

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