Crypto and Black wealth
The future of money and opportunity in web3
Below is an article originally written by Cuy Sheffield, Head of Crypto at Visa. Go to Visa's company page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Cuy Sheffield, Global Head of Crypto, and Delores Terry, Head of U.S. Inclusive Client Partnership New Business, recently sat down with Matt Story, VP, Global Brand Partnerships & Advocacy Programs for an AfroTech 2022 Learning Lab discussion on web3, crypto and the Black economy. In this second part of a two-part series, we hear from Cuy about opportunities in the emerging web3 space. For Delores’ article, read Leading with purpose: How inclusive partnerships can unlock the potential of minority-owned fintechs.
I’ve been aware of and exposed to racial wealth disparities from an early age. As I see it, the roots of today’s wealth disparities have a lot to do with things that happened in the past — where a lot of people have been historically excluded from what has matured into today’s formal financial system.
Understanding the history of money — not as a static thing, but something that has evolved and continues to evolve — informs the way I think about value in general, and crypto and web3 technology more specifically.
As we look to the future, how do we help make sure that, if new technologies emerge, Black people are participating? We are still very early in the story of crypto and web3 technologies, which means there is still a huge opportunity for folks to get in near the ground floor.
To be clear, crypto isn’t just one thing. It’s a collection of technologies that can be helpful to think about in three categories: 1) fiat-backed currencies, like stablecoins and central bank digital currencies, which represent traditional fiat-based currencies on public blockchains that may play a role in the future of money movement; 2) cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum, that some folks treat as stores of value, which can represent new networks with countless use cases, and 3) NFTs, which are digital collectibles, giving communities and creators new ways to monetize their work. Black artists, in particular, have already collectively sold more than $90 million worth of NFTs,1 and we see this technology as playing a number of potential roles in helping drive the future state of digital commerce.
Of course, any new technology is not without its risks, and crypto is no exception. We’ve seen plenty of things go sideways in crypto since its inception, and it is to be expected, as in any young, emerging industry, that not all web3 projects will succeed. We have seen this play out before — for instance, in the early days of the internet — and anyone considering participating in the space would do well to learn those lessons from history. Just as there is risk, though, in any new technology, there’s also an opportunity for early participation — one that may allow early entrants to benefit from future growth in the industry overall.
Right now, we’re seeing a lot of innovation in the web3 space. It’s an entirely new tech stack, with a growing network of startups, founders and developers. In 2022, the number of monthly active crypto developers grew 5% year over year, despite prices in the broader market declining by some 70%.2 More and more, there is demand for talent that understands this space. Since the space is essentially brand new, the barrier to entry is relatively low.
And crypto can be — as it was for me when I first fell down the rabbit hole — a kind of growth hack for financial literacy. It can spark curiosity around investing and critical thinking around what money is and how it has evolved. It can pique interest in distributed systems, cryptography and cybersecurity — all critical skillsets for the digital age. We already think about STEM and the importance of getting more communities involved not just in using, but in building, and we should think about the web3 space in a similar way — that it represents exciting new technologies with huge possibilities, and we should want Black communities to participate in its development. As the industry grows and matures, crypto-native skillsets will likely be in increasing demand. In that demand is an opportunity — to build, and to enter what could be a whole new industry still in its early days.
As early career entrants into an emerging tech space, Black communities stand the chance to not only benefit, but to contribute to building an ecosystem for the next generation of creators, value and money movement.
When I think back to the early vision behind Visa, it’s clear that it was never meant to be just a card program, but to power electronic value exchange—to be the connection between how quickly and easily money can move and economies can grow. The work we do, day in and day out, is rooted in being able to materially improve economic outcomes for individuals and communities around the world. Crypto can be part of that.
Learn more at visa.com/crypto
1 Estimate based on aggregated data by https://dune.com/niftytable/Black-NFT-Art