Critical Tips for Crypto Startup Success as a Woman

For any startup, the odds of succeeding are slim. In fact, studies report that 90% of startups fail due to either running out of money, getting outcompeted, or simply being ignored by the customers they were counting on for support.

In the crypto space, there are even more challenges to overcome when launching a startup. Few markets are as volatile as the crypto market, which makes valuations and revenue projections rather unreliable. Institutional trust is also still difficult for crypto startups to gain, which means funding opportunities are limited.


The ultimate challenge for crypto startups is to succeed with a woman founder. One study found that only 4% of crypto companies were founded by women. My experience tells me that number is inflated. Crypto is a male-dominated industry in which gender bias and a lack of role models are just two of many challenges that make it extremely difficult for women to succeed. 

I am intimately familiar with the challenges women founders face in the crypto space because I lead a successful crypto startup that I founded five years ago. The following critical tips are things that I learned women in crypto must do to be among the 10% of startups that succeed.

Dealing with a dominance disadvantage

Do some research on succeeding as a startup, and you’ll see the word “dominate” come up regularly, especially in reference to business meetings. In the startup realm, dominating your pitch meeting is seen as one of the keys to getting the funding you need. When you are in the dominant position, people listen to you, write you checks, and give you the overall support you need to gain traction in the startup space.

When women step into the male-dominated crypto space, they are seen in a different light than their male counterparts. They are viewed as less technically competent, less committed, less rational, and more risk-averse — all factors that put women at a dominance disadvantage.

To be fair to men, these biases can be unconscious, as socialization can teach gender stereotypes that result in implicit associations. Groupthink is another factor that can keep people from identifying their biases.

Even if unintentional, these biases exist and affect the way women founders are treated in the crypto space. The good news is that women can overcome them, but the key to doing so is to acknowledge your dominance disadvantage and address it.

Developing an exceptional competitive advantage

Securing funding is key to keeping your startup alive, meaning you will need to have a few successful pitch meetings. And as a woman, a successful pitch meeting means flipping the script and inserting yourself into the dominant position.

The best way I have found to do this is to establish an outstanding competitive advantage that positions your startup as the clear winner in your space. Male founders in the crypto space can secure funding for their startups by simply being competitive. Because of the bias against women, you need to be more than competitive. You will need what I call an unfair competitive advantage.

One example of this would be pitching a femtech product or service. Investors will quickly understand how a femtech startup guided by a female founder will have an advantage over those that are male-led. In that situation, your gender gives you an unfair competitive advantage.

In my case, I established an exceptional competitive advantage by securing the license necessary to operate a regulated digital asset custodian and trust in both the United States and Hong Kong. Achieving that advantage was a costly challenge that involved multi-millions of dollars and four years of work to secure the qualified custodian status from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In the end, it paid off, making us the only US-qualified custodian that also has the Trust or Company Service Provider License (TCSP) in Hong Kong and allowing us to be recognized as an established organization providing solutions to traditional financial institutions such as investment brokers and securities companies in Hong Kong.   

When I walk into a meeting with investors, I know that I can establish my dominance by leveraging my license as an exceptional competitive advantage. For female founders to succeed, they must think strategically about the steps they will take to be able to do the same.

Stay committed to your mission

One stereotype that I believe holds true is that women are more mission-driven than men. I came to the crypto space to put knowledge into action in a way that builds trust in the financial system. That is the mission that drove me to build two regulated trust companies as custodians for crypto assets.

Many recent failures in the crypto space suggest that pursuing profits at any cost rather than pursuing a mission is what attracts investors. Knowing that, it can be easy to lose your way as you seek to secure financing. My advice is to keep your strategy aligned with your vision and manifest what you want to achieve.

Overall, the most important tip I can offer to female founders wanting to succeed in the crypto space is to ensure that every step is a strategic step. Unlike male founders, we don’t have the luxury to be flexible, nor do we have easy access to the same amount of resources. 

Commit to a worthwhile mission, develop an unfair competitive advantage, and move forward step by step, making the most of every door opened to you. 
Serra Wei is the Founder and CEO of Aegis Custody and Aegis Trust. Aegis is a licensed and insured digital asset custodian. Aspiring to be the world’s leading digital asset custodian, Aegis provides institutional-grade custody to service clients all over the globe through Aegis Trust Company, a South Dakota trust charter in the US, and Aegis Custody, a trust company service provider in Hong Kong. Serra is a cryptocurrency finance executive, investor, and entrepreneur with a blend of experience in both legacy & blockchain-based finance and cryptocurrencies. Ms. Wei has worked with Goldman Sachs and Passport Capital on building investment strategies, structuring M&A deals, cryptocurrency trading, and custody solutions.

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