“Blockchain technology is a huge design space. It’s a big, permissionless whiteboard where people have the ability to build tech legos and new networks, and it puts the user first,” said Min Teo, Partner at ConsenSys Labs. “This is one of the few technologies without constraints and when you give developers the freedom to create, society benefits. We all move forward.”
ConsenSys was founded in 2014 with the vision of growing the Ethereum blockchain community into a robust ecosystem of people and products. It has since developed into a global company with world-class entrepreneurs, technologists, and fintech and leaders who are building a core suite of products that can lay the foundation for the world’s IT systems. ConsenSys helps developers, enterprises, financial institutions, nonprofits and governments launch real-world blockchain solutions that optimize workflows, secure IT infrastructure, unlock new business models and set a new standard for trust. ConsenSys is also known for its VC activity and are investors in ErisX.
Min is a Partner at ConsenSys’ venture capital arm, ConsenSys Labs, and is based in their London Office. ConsenSys Labs is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and developers around the world through tools, talent and capital. Min oversees the investment portfolio and partners with some of the best blockchain innovators around the world. As one of the earliest investors in this space, they understand that blockchain and digital asset adoption may be a long game.
“We might not call it Blockchain in the future,” she said. “Blockchain funds might be similar to general funds and you will have someone focused on health services, gaming, etc. Web 2.0 is just going to integrate into Web 3.0.”
A Shoebox of Money
Min joined ConsenSys two years ago after working at a company selling electronic wallets. This is her first job in the Blockchain industry, after following it on the sidelines for several years.
“Blockchain was the logical next step in my career,” said Min, who spent 7 years in private equity and credit trading bilateral loans and distressed assets. Most previously before joining ConsenSys, she spent two years at a fintech startup working with the engineering team to reduce the cost of payments by optimizing the backend stack. “When you start peeling back the layers of the onion, you see there are multiple players, a lack of innovation and an entrenched value chain that is really hurting customers. You could send money to India in a shoebox faster than you could send digital money.”
Min knows first hand about the inefficiencies of sending money around the world. ConsenSys supports a girls charity in Afghanistan called Code To Inspire, which is a non-profit organization that teaches women in Kandahar to write code.
“Working with Code To Inspire, we had the opportunity to learn about cultural problems that go a lot deeper than technology,” said Min. “For example, women are not allowed to have bank accounts in Afghanistan but Code To Inspire leverages Bounties to pay their students for the coding work they do.”
Code To Inspire works with ConsenSys’ Bounties Network, a two-way marketplace that posts “bounties” or discrete chunks of work such as fixing a software bug. Developers can complete the tasks on their own time. The Bounties Network uses ConsenSys’ MetaMask wallet, an electronic wallet on the Ethereum network, to enable students to accept ether (ETH) for their work.
“It’s a great way to help liberate women on the ground,” said Min.
Saying No 98% of the Time
While one of Min’s favorite parts of her job is meeting all of the intelligent entrepreneurs and driven developers, she says the hardest part of her job is saying no.
“My team actually did an analysis and we say no 98% of the time,” she said. “When someone is very passionate and bright, it is very hard to say no.”
She explained that they look at their portfolio companies like a technology stack and try not to invest in competing products.
“We try not to get too excited about ideas but rather invest in the people and if need be, trust them to change their original idea as it is taking shape,” she said. “We tend to index people that are technical so there is a good fit between investor and founder.”
Min explained that they look for teams that have a deep understanding of the preconditions before their business takes off.
“We are driving adoption together, otherwise you get into this chicken or egg conundrum and that is not how innovation or adoption works,” she said.
Diversity of Thought
Finally, Min said that they are critical of teams that lack diversity.
“There is a very commercial reason why. If you look at a team that is all white men, how are you going to sell to all the various stakeholders that you have to convince? We think creatively on how to shorten sales cycles and this is really important to us,” she said. “Some of my early founders will tell you I get on their case when they don’t have any team members that come from diverse backgrounds. ConsenSys is building something that addresses the general population. It’s not about females but diversity of thought and it should be granted on every team.”
As the conversation came to a close, Min talked about leaving her mark on the Blockchain space.
“My dad always told me that it’s important to balance your resume with your eulogy. What will people say at your funeral? It’s morbid but it always kept me honest,” she said. “I want to be known as a good investor with great returns and a great portfolio but also as someone that built lasting companies that had a positive impact on society.”
Min recommended that anyone looking to learn more about blockchain and digital assets explore ConsenSys’ academy program. She also referred to ConsenSys Media and A16z’s resources that provide industry insights through newsletters, blogs, books and podcasts. In the end, she simply advised to dip your toe in to see what all the buzz is about.
“There are countless founders in our space taking a lot of sweat equity and playing the long game. It’s a risk because it could succeed or it could fail, but they have the foresight that they are building something big that will change the world,” she said. “Try out some DeFi tools. See how they work. Fund your first Metamask wallet, take out a loan on Compound or play a blockchain game like Skyweaver. Once you use the tools you will see why people are excited about the permissionless, and unapologetic innovation that characterizes the blockchain and digital asset space.”