The newly appointed head of the Ethereum Foundation, Aya Miyaguchi, talks about her background as a teacher, at Kraken, helping the Mt. Gox trustee unwind that mess, and the closed process by which she was plucked for her current role. She also describes her goals with the Ethereum Foundation, how the EF believes the Ethereum community should make decisions, how it defines community and more. She also talks about how she hopes to push more financial inclusion with Ethereum, and what she thinks needs to be done to get more women involved in crypto.
Aya Miyaguchi: https://twitter.com/mi_ayako
Ethereum Foundation: https://www.ethereum.org/foundation
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Laura Shin: 01:24
Today’s guest is Aya Miyaguchi, executive director of the Ethereum Foundation. Welcome Aya.
Aya Miyaguchi: 01:31
Hi. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Laura Shin: 01:35
Tell me about your background and how you got into crypto?
Aya Miyaguchi: 01:38
Sure. My background, actually my first professional career started as a high school teacher in Japan. And, my mission was to tell my students the importance of going outside of the country once in their life. And then I’m also, I myself as a teacher, I thought it was very wrong that teachers did not go out there to see the world or did not try other professional experiences. I just quit my job and then came to the US and then, I wanted to first I wanted to get a job and therefore I needed to go to graduate school. And then while I was studying, I heard about Bitcoin in 2011 and that was my first encounter with anything about blockchain and it took me a while to understand what Bitcoin was as there were no good materials to learn for a nontechnical person like me.
Aya Miyaguchi: 02:45
And however, after I learned about the major benefits of Bitcoin, I thought it’d be very helpful for financial inclusion and social impact. And then, my focus when I was working on my MBA was sustainable business and I personally was specifically interested in micro finance to make women financially independent in developing countries. And I thought Bitcoin would be very helpful for that, although now Ethereum can do a lot more. But back then it was Bitcoin that I was interested in. And then in early 2013. I got an opportunity to join Kraken Exchange. Kraken just started hiring. And there were only a few people in the team back then and we didn’t even have an office. But the team was based in San Francisco and I was fortunate to have amazing experience there surrounded by the people who started the crypto industry. That’s how I got into this space first.
Laura Shin: 03:58
And what did you do at Kraken exactly?
Aya Miyaguchi: 04:01
So I was managing Kraken’s Japan operation originally and then I became managing director for Kraken Japan. After I studied and built the team there. But before even doing that, right after I started doing things in Japan, Mt. Gox collapse and they just happened to be in Japan. And then there wasn’t any market there back in 2014, early 2014 it was. And then more than 90 percent of people, users of Mt. Gox were outside of Japan. So the whole country was kind of shocked by first hearing the name Bitcoin originally because people did not know anything about it. And then also how it affected a lot of people and then lost a lot of money. So it all started with a negative imaging there in Japan. So, I thought I needed to do something before even starting business there. I reached out to the government group who was in charge of doing some research on Bitcoin and also potentially regulating the space, but since they had no knowledge about the technology, I reached out to them and then ask, well first explained who I was and that I had experience in the space. But also I had an experience like working with the self regulatory organization back then, like in the US, there was a group called data. Digital Asset Transfer Authority, which was founded by early industry people or CEOs from some of the Bitcoin startups. So I reached out to them and then I asked if they needed help, I can help. And then they said, “Can you just meet with us right away?” And, so that was the beginning of the conversation where the government actually deciding not to regulate the space back then and then, which I thought was a smart idea because the market was too small, but also they instead they ask us to found and create a self regulatory organization in Japan. So I founded that with some other members, but Kraken was the only experienced company there. I ended up being involved in regulatory conversations which led to the existing regulations now that started in 2017.
Laura Shin: 07:08
And is that digital currency trade organization, the Japan Authority of Digital Asset?
Aya Miyaguchi: 07:08
Laura Shin: 07:17
And so what were those conversations like? I mean, they happened over a number of years it looks like. And if in the beginning you were advocating not to issue regulations in the beginning, how did the regulations last year come about? And why did you think that, that if you thought that was the right time, why did you think that was very time?
Aya Miyaguchi: 07:40
Yeah. so originally, like I said, there was no market. People did not know anything about the technology and then it just started with the Mt. Gox unfortunate case. So the media was talking only negative stories. Before regulating like it’s just like including the regulators, including the people at the government, including people who were writing about the story they need to know, learn about the technology and what that can do. So in the beginning it was, it was a smart idea not to regulate the space, but then like we kind of formed this group and then created this self regulatory criterias for mainly exchanges like Kraken. And what they need to do for KYC or security and then all the rest of thing that was mostly based on what we were doing in the US. But, try to make a little bit more flexible. And that was in 2014. And then after that gradually the country recovered was recovering from the shock from Mt. Gox. And then market started to grow because other players and then as industry was growing, I think there were other issues such as financial institutions were not comfortable enough to work with crypto companies because it wasn’t regulated, but there were a lot of opportunities or a lot of interest there that the companies wanting to work with the technology in some way. And then around that time, the regulators decided to regulate this space, but they were still talking to the industry group or what would be the best way, not that they listened to all the requests that we made, but we provided information. They listened and then it was around the time that without the regulations, the space would miss a lot of opportunities and so the original draft was created the end of 2016 and then he went in effect in 2017.
Laura Shin: 10:20
So I only really know those regulations in broad strokes. Like I know that Bitcoin was named a legal currency. I know that later, some of the crypto exchanges were licensed. Can you just draw out for me what those regulations were and what the significance was and what you thought were the pros and cons of the different regulations?
Aya Miyaguchi: 10:46
Sure. So that regulation, specifically that was created and started last year in 2017 was for exchanges and the payment processors. Mainly to provide again the list of thing that require to exchanges so that there won’t be any money laundering or security, hacking. The similar things that the US was doing. And then mainly the list of thing that is required to get the license. Both what we call it in English, it’s license, but suppose it wasn’t supposed to be a licensed, they called it as their registration, but it turned out to be a little more difficult than anyone thought it would be to finish the registration because most of the requirements were still created based on the conventional financial regulations that existed before.
Laura Shin: 12:03
And to go back to what you were saying earlier about Mt. Gox. I know that Kraken was appointed to help Mt. Gox investigate what happened to the lost or stolen bitcoins and also to help them pay back the creditors. What was Kraken able to accomplish with that role?
Aya Miyaguchi: 12:28
First of all, it was requested by the founder of Kraken especially because he cared about the community more than even just the business side of this. But, since it happened in Japan, I reached out to the trustee of Mt. Gox bankruptcy proceeding case and then explained who we are and then what the technology can do. because it happened because of the conduct at the same time, it didn’t really happen because of the technology of Bitcoin. It could have happened with anything. And so I explained that, and also explained what we could do, how we could help them because they had no idea what to do with this case, especially because of the huge amount of lost asset were with bitcoin and so Kraken was able to sign on the agreement to be a supporting company of this Mt. Gox bankruptcy proceeding case. And then they requested us to support them, help with any technical questions they might have and especially investigating the lost bitcoin. Where it went and then it was impossible for them to do everything on their own even if they hire some consulting technology company. And so they knew that they needed some expert from the industry. So we were there to kind of support their work, not us doing everything. It’s more like we were a supporter to instruct them how to do the investigation. And also, it was decided for the first time in the industry to do the pay out with bitcoin. And originally, it was supposed to be also beneficial for Kraken. But because a lot of complexity and then some existing lawsuits, which hasn’t happened yet unfortunately. And it’s still ongoing. And then during that time things have changed and a lot of things have happened. So Kraken didn’t do it for the business benefit only, although it did have a lot of positive reputation impact.
Laura Shin: 15:12
You mean helping Kraken or hurting the Bitcoin community or what do you mean by that?
Aya Miyaguchi: 15:17
Both of them. I mean like Kraken tried to help the community. Tried to save the creditors who were the victim of the Mt. Gox which was also part of the industry. It was sort of like a community effort that Kraken tried to do.
Laura Shin: 15:38
Okay. I wanted to go back to something you said, which was you said something about how the payment or the payout was supposed to be in bitcoin. But I think, I don’t know what you’re referring to you because, I think the big controversy is that they’re actually paying back the creditors in dollars and not refunding them the amount that they had lost in bitcoins. So what do you mean by that?
Aya Miyaguchi: 16:01 No. So originally it was decided that way that the bitcoin, was if you think about the cost of wiring money to all over the world because more than 90 percent of users were outside Japan, but the bankruptcy case was in Japan. So the asset was in Japan and then if you were to send the payout using Fiat currency by using regular bank wires and then back then that, the cost of doing that was too much considering the whole amount of assets that was there. And then after that the Bitcoin price went really high. and the trustees started to worry if they didn’t sell the bitcoin, they might get blamed or something like that.
Laura Shin: 16:54
Blamed for what?
Aya Miyaguchi: 16:55
Blamed for not making more asset. But that is very controversial. I wasn’t really involved in that part of the discussion.
Laura Shin: 17:10
Okay. So at some point, we’re talking about the trustee, Nobuaki Kobayashi is his name. He changed his mind and decided to reimburse them in dollars. Is that what happened?
Aya Miyaguchi: 17:23
It’s more like if they sell Bitcoin, they can make a huge amount of money, that was what they thought. I think that price of Bitcoin affected there… Again, like I wasn’t really involved in this discussion.
Laura Shin: 17:47
To me it doesn’t make any sense. Just, I mean, I know that’s not, that wasn’t your decision, but it’s a little bit like if you had bitcoins you would want the bitcoins back, like especially because the prices have also… But anyway, let’s move on to discuss the Ethereum Foundation. What is the Ethereum foundation and what is its mission and what does the foundation do?
Aya Miyaguchi: 18:14
Yes. So the Ethereum Foundation is a foundation and they are members of organizations to support the development and research of the Ethereum technology team that also support the community activities which also support the development and research of Ethereum. The mission is to basically make Ethereum as best as possible by supporting community, by facilitating research and development effort.
Laura Shin: 18:45
And what do you do in your role as executive director?
Aya Miyaguchi: 19:02
I just joined the foundation officially in February of this year. So I basically coordinate and organize the foundation’s activities within like internally, but also the foundation has even a bigger role working with the community members and so doing education, doing events and those are the thing that are a main focuses of our activities and then making communication better. So there are a couple of things that we wanted to do better by hearing what people thought about the foundation’s activities before, but also I personally did not know about the Ethereum Foundation much in detail before joining the foundation. So I want to make it more transparent and clear to world, what the foundation is, what we’re doing, but also how we can work together with the community members, because Ethereum has an amazing community, which is really the great thing about Ethereum.
Laura Shin: 20:04
And what were those things that you said that the community has asked from the foundation?
Aya Miyaguchi: 20:13
I think, it wasn’t really clear which we are planning to make it more clear, but it was make better at communicating is that, it wasn’t really clear what the foundation’s focus was compared to what the community is, what other members in the community is doing, basically like why the foundation exists when, the Ethereum technology is there and then other community members are building other stuff and then some of them are actually working on some solutions that the foundation is working on. So why we are here? What are the main focuses of the foundation? So that is one of the requests is to make it more transparent and then communicate that better.
Laura Shin: 21:04
Yeah. And how do you plan to do that? Because I do know, and this might be something that you’re only obliquely referring you, but I know that the former executive director Ming Chan was widely criticized and complained about in the Ethereum community for being controlling for not being communicative, for not building out infrastructure for the organization. So how do you plan to manage the foundation and prevent these issues from coming up again?
Aya Miyaguchi: 21:29
Yeah, so well I do think she did a lot of important things, just to make it clear because they had a lot of difficulties and then challenges before I joined. But it is true since the industry is going and the Ethereum community is growing, the demand is higher. The foundation has to grow in a way that I don’t think that necessarily means the foundation has to become bigger in terms of the number of people we have in the team. It’s more about what is great about the community and also the challenge is it is very decentralized. And in order to solve them all then or one challenge. Like we work together with the community. Like it’s not the foundation to control everything or solve everything in house and it has to stay that way because the technology itself is also decentralized. And in order to do that, instead of us trying to do everything in house, we are already. We have been working with the community members and then make everything as a community effort, we don’t really care who does what job, but we do care at the end how much Ethereum can improve as a whole. So we want to make everything as a community effort and then the foundation is a facilitator but also in a coordinator, we’re not the manager or we are not controlling anything so that kind of message we have to send and then in order to do that we’re trying to get more clients and then work on more educational hire for it and then also again, like making the communication better.
Laura Shin: 23:25
And when you talk about the community, who exactly are you talking about? Like who were the people that you end up talking to you or the other foundation members end up talking to?
Aya Miyaguchi: 23:35
It’s basically anyone who is doing anything with Ethereum, that’s kind of a simpler way to say. Either its individuals or an organization and an organization like EEA or other community members. It can be an individual who is just contributing to the Ethereum technology because it’s open source and then some of them just started contributing to the technology and we can see that because it’s open and if they are contributing a lot, like we tried to, we should acknowledge them more or better and then that’s why we wanted to do by giving grants. Whether it’s an individual or it’s an organization or its team or company. So whoever that is, that it’s part of the community and also any decision maker making, like ideally we want to talk to as many groups as possible.
Laura Shin: 24:46
Okay. And earlier when you referenced EEA, just for people who don’t know, that’s the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, which is a whole bunch of big multinationals around the world that are building things on the Ethereum source code. I think though that a lot of them are using it for private blockchain projects. Am I right?
Aya Miyaguchi: 24:46
Laura Shin: 25:10
Okay. So something that I wanted to ask you was about some big questions that the Etherium community has been mulling recently. One is whether or not to unfreeze some funds that were accidentally locked up. This has generated some really passionate debate. There was, I should have looked up the dollar amount, but a huge amount of ether I think got locked up by some bug in a smart contract where somebody accidentally hit what is sort of like a kill button in a way that logged up these funds. Another one that came about sort of with an April fool’s joke that Vitalik posted online was a blog post where he raised the question of whether or not to cap the supply of ether or to inflate the money supply in perpetuity. Although it’s generated some serious discussion. So how do these kinds of questions get decided and what role does the Ethereum Foundation play in making those decisions?
Aya Miyaguchi: 26:17
So again, I’m not supposed to make a really public comment for something like this because unlike other developers if I do it, it makes it look like I’m representing the foundation. But as the foundation, I think, like I said, it’s the community who should decide on important decisions and then yes, Vitalik sometimes proposes some idea, but he’s not really forcing that to be picked by the community, but he’s suggesting the idea as an individual and then he doesn’t mean to control. Although he does have friends, so people try to know what his intention is, but his intention is never to control the decision making. And like all the governance discussions that we… it’s, it’s discussed in an open way. And then we also had this discussion at a big event in Paris, ECC a month ago. And then that was and an opportunity for the community to discuss what other challenges that we have with the current governance structure and what should we discuss. And then also what can be improved. There wasn’t really a good conclusion to that because it’s not an easy answer. There is not an easy answer for that. But, the foundation can facilitate these discussions. But at the same time, the foundation should never be the one to make the decision.
Laura Shin: 28:08
We’re going to keep discussing this issue and other issues around the Ethereum Foundation. But first I’d like you to take a quick break to tell you about our fabulous sponsors.
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Laura Shin: 31:01
I’m speaking with Aya Miyaguchi, the Executive Director of the Etherium Foundation. So to go back to this topic of what it is that the community wants, how do you decide that? Do you have good ways of measuring which option has more support one way or another amongst token holders and how do you account for the fact that maybe there might be some, like let’s say Bitcoin maximalists or people from a competing smart contract platform that tried to sway decisions within the Ethereum community? How do you account for those things?
Aya Miyaguchi: 31:30
Again, the foundation doesn’t have to decide. I don’t think the foundation has to decide, which opinion that Ethereum should a pick or to select as the answer because it’s supposed to be a community. I think we need to provide more opportunity for the community. They’d be able to have better communication or better discussions and it is a technology. Ethereum is a technology and then also involve discussion about the technology. But most of the time it’s very human. And, it involves some ethics questions and legal questions. And then for that it requires a lot of different experts to further the discussion itself. But also the foundation is only the facilitator of the discussions and they we don’t need to pick which decision should be used.
Laura Shin: 32:35
So then is the final call come down to Vitalik himself and nobody else? Because some entity, whether it’s a person or group needs to make the final decision. Right. And to say, okay, discussions over we’re going to move forward with this action.
Aya Miyaguchi: 32:53
The final decision for how the organization works, what the foundation is supposed to do, that should be of course discussed internally. But how the technology is used, or how the governance should be is not by the foundation or not by Vitalik either. I mean he also has his own opinion as an individual who contributes a lot to Ethereum. But, again, it shouldn’t be anyone from the foundation. It could be like anyone from the foundation also can possess the idea or be an individual who prefers one way or another, but when you say decisions, anything related to the governance or anything, that decision that you just pointed out, it should not be done by the foundation is what I meant.
Laura Shin: 33:53
So then who does make that final call?
Aya Miyaguchi: 34:00
Final call for what?
Laura Shin: 34:02
Any kind of decision like about, whether or not to unfreeze those frozen funds or whether or not to cap the supply, things like that?
Aya Miyaguchi: 34:02
It is the community.
Laura Shin: 34:02
That makes the final call though?
Aya Miyaguchi: 34:21
Yeah, the final call meaning like if the… of course there should be a way to find out from the community, which we can do better like, providing opportunity to have a discussion between the community, but again the final call for that it can be suggested by anyone in the community and then the community has to come to the consensus.
Laura Shin: 34:47
Okay. And do you have a process for that at the moment?
Aya Miyaguchi: 34:54
Not we, not only the foundation but we are working with the community members. Again, like we had this discussion last month and then other discussions are kind of being planned to happen at the next big event. And so we’re trying to figure out what are the best way to get there.
Laura Shin: 35:19
And I think something that I’ve been wondering and I think a lot of people are wondering is what was the application process and screening process you underwent to be chosen as the executive director?
Aya Miyaguchi: 35:37
That’s a good question. I think, especially since last year or a couple of years ago, I started exploring different products in social impact blockchain space and then I was actually planning to start my own social impact studio. And then, fortunately I received a lot of offers and then when I decided to pursue the next thing, especially toward social impact area. And when I decided to leave Kraken, then I started exploring that area and then I said no to all different offers, but this one was kind of like too important for me because all the idea that I had or the product that I was supporting would not at the end of the day succeed without Ethereum.
Laura Shin: 36:41
So it was just offered to you?
Aya Miyaguchi: 36:43
It was offered to me, yes.
Laura Shin: 36:48
You didn’t even apply for it. They just came to you?
Aya Miyaguchi: 36:52
I didn’t apply for it, but I’m pretty sure they were talking to other people too. I didn’t really ask. I mean the process itself because I’m, I was the one who joined, but yes. I didn’t apply for it, but I was asked by people in the community.
Laura Shin: 36:52
Was there even an open application process?
Aya Miyaguchi: 37:21
Well, I don’t know. Well, I don’t think it was open because I didn’t see it. And then you probably didn’t see it.
Laura Shin: 37:32
For a decentralized project. Do you think the process should be done in this fashion?
Aya Miyaguchi: 37:56
That’s a very good question. I think it could be of course open and then the community could have decided if any community members think that’s the best way. And then and that is proposed at some point, but I think it’s okay to be that way. But at the same time, I think it was, it involved a lot of things that are… it’s not just community and then it’s about the foundation’s organization and then so they needed someone who had experience working globally and a long experience in the crypto space which I was told but there wasn’t an open process. But I think that’s a good idea. Right.
Laura Shin: 38:48
And who interviewed you, who decided who should be the next executive director?
Aya Miyaguchi: 38:54
I talked to a lot of members in the team.
Laura Shin: 38:58
Which team? Like the existing foundation members?
Aya Miyaguchi: 38:58
Existing foundation members? Yes.
Laura Shin: 39:07
Like Ming and Vitalik. Those were the only two I was aware of.
Aya Miyaguchi: 39:11
Yes. That’s also good questions. No, it was Vitalik but also other people like researchers and developers in the team.
Laura Shin: 39:23
So you mentioned earlier that you are working on the foundations top priorities. What are those right now?
Aya Miyaguchi: 39:33
So mainly three focuses and then one is grants which we already talked. Giving grants to a community project or individual who are contributing to Ethereum solutions and together with the foundation or individually. And the second is community development and supporting new regional community to launch. The communities are growng and then a lot of new meet ups are happening in the world and then if they need support we’re happy to support and send speakers or if they need financial support we can discuss and also working with universities or creating educational materials and also facilitate the initiative of education. And also that includes some regulatory discussion. Sometimes we are asked to give advice to regulators. And the last one is the research and development that obviously you can see that the core development and research work that the foundation is taking the initiative, but some of them are truly not just done by the foundation members and then through the community grants and also educational or community development effort that we can facilitate the R&D effort in a better way. Not just doing that in house.
Laura Shin: 41:12
As you can tell from what you have said but also from some of my questions. I think there is a big question around how best to govern an open source project, are there any models of open source governance that you look to for guidance?
Aya Miyaguchi: 41:26
Not many specifically but by talking to a lot of people. Any open source project but also like something like Linux Foundation. But I think what we are trying to accomplish is something very new because this is very decentralized. It’s not just the technology is open source. We’ve been discussing the new way of organizing everything, which we just started doing this. Like having a lot of discussion internally, but also hiring more people on the operation side because that was something the foundation didn’t have before me joining.
Laura Shin: 42:23
What would those roles be?
Aya Miyaguchi: 42:25
Well, we don’t set very specific titles but something like more operation members for the grant team and then more operation members for the education team and then because those are very important to work with the community.
Laura Shin: 42:48
Yeah. Well how many foundation members are there currently?
Aya Miyaguchi: 42:52
So it is roughly about 50 developers and then also 15 researchers. If we call it like the researchers and developers and then there are maybe only like a few operations people, including myself.
Laura Shin: 43:14
Okay. And so is that what the Ethereum Foundation budget is largely going toward right now? It’s like their salaries but then also these grants that you guys are giving out?
Aya Miyaguchi: 43:14
Laura Shin: 43:30
Okay. So, to go to some of the priorities that you mentioned and so obviously your background because you studied micro finance and we’re talking about how you were drawn to blockchain because of its potential for fostering financial inclusion. Do you have plans now for the Ethereum foundation to help promote financial inclusion in some fashion? If so, what are those plans?
Aya Miyaguchi: 43:51
Of course like I will personally support those project or it could be products for sure I’ll keep doing that. But as a foundation, we will focus on the core infrastructure development first so that all the applications that are built on top of Ethereum can perform better. Such as like the scaling issues need to be solved. And then that sort of focus now, indirectly that I believe is going to support those financial inclusion products or projects.
Laura Shin: 44:34
And what are some examples of financial inclusion projects that you think are promising?
Aya Miyaguchi: 44:42
Well, something like micro finance can… just to solve the payment part that’s useful, but at the same time with Ethereum you can use smart contract to use the technology for like Identification for loan takers, background or like how you actually manage the loan process. You can use smart contract for that. That can actually be very useful and then other financial inclusion effort is simply just give financial independence by using crypto currencies. Crypto currencies can do a lot more things than Fiat currencies. But also, it is not really controlled by one single country in which sometimes is a problem when you cannot trust the country or the government or the bank. When they don’t have access to the banks even more so.
Laura Shin: 45:54
And to go back to regulation, which you mentioned is one of the priorities. I noticed in December you had tweeted, “The most important role of a self regulatory body is not just to regulate the space, but also to educate regulators to find the best solution for the longterm success of both the industry and the country. No point of having an industry org if they cannot argue with regulators.” What regulations right now in which countries do you think are reasonable and work well for the crypto ecosystem and which regulations do you think are not productive?
Aya Miyaguchi: 46:26
I personally think that the ones that are not too aggressive. Not making quick decision yet are so far the best ones or the smarter one. If they move too quick or make decisions too quickly without really deeply discussing the potential outcomes because the industry moves very quick. This happened in Japan too, like when the regulation was first drafted and it went into effect a few months later. And then it’s just that it takes long time for them to… after they decided to regulate and then coming up with the draft and then making it effective, it almost took a year, which is a very long time for this space. And then a lot of things have changed and then there’s so they have to, I could see that the regulator’s we’re kind of getting pressured with the new thing that keep happening in the industry and then something like lCO was not really part of the discussion when they first drafted the regulation. So, I think it’s important not to take too aggressive decisions. Like if they come up with the regulation, not to make it too un-flexible so that they cannot act flexibly later.
Laura Shin: 48:11
And when you said that Etherium wants to have this role in education as well, when it comes to regulators, how do you do that? When there’s somewhere in the ballpark of 200 countries around the world. How would you have that many conversations going on?
Aya Miyaguchi: 48:34
So, we are not the lobbying organization, so that’s not our intention, but sometimes we are asked to give advice from a different jurisdictions because we are a nonprofit that doesn’t have a business incentive and then also the foundation does have the history and technical background so that if they are missing any knowledge about the technology or that the regulators do not have enough time to actually catch up with everything that happening in industry. They often look for advice from an expert but they don’t know who to ask when any expert can have business incentives or money incentive and as a foundation says we’re a nonprofit but also our goal is to maintain the space as healthy as possible. So we can provide some advice and then they can use it or not. But we’re happy to give advice is our approach. But, like you said, we can’t really travel to each country to kind of like convince them like this is the way that you should do. Its more like when we are asked to give advice, we try to do our best.
Laura Shin: 50:05
Interesting. I mean I totally get your point about how they might have a little bit more comfort with a non-profit, but given how closely the foundation is tied to Vitalik and the fact that obviously he has a lot of ether himself and I don’t know if the analogy is like exactly perfect. But, to keep talking about regulation. I wanted to ask also about if there are any new regulatory developments will see coming out of Japan? Because I think some people thought that it was pretty forward looking that Japan, you know, made Bitcoin a legal currency and that it had these licensed exchanges. But are there any other new regulations in the works?
Aya Miyaguchi: 50:49
The only thing I’m aware, although I talk to them very often. But, I don’t think they tell me everything that they’re having their mind, but we have been talking about some ICO best practices. But, I don’t know whether they’re planning to provide any regulations very soon or not.
Laura Shin: 51:21
And something else I want to ask you about, which you may not know entirely because you don’t work there anymore is I did see that Kraken recently pulled out of Japan. Do you have any insight into how conditions there have changed for exchanges and why Kraken might’ve decided to close its operations in Japan?
Aya Miyaguchi: 51:37
Yeah, so I don’t think I should speak for them because I’m not representing them anymore, but I think things in Japan have become a little tighter and tense after the hacking at coincheck, which was one of the biggest exchanges there. A huge amount of NEM coins was hacked at the exchange and since then things have become more tense and tighter. Thats what I know.
Laura Shin: 52:16 Okay. And something else I want to ask about was that you tweeted about how when you started working in crypto in 2013, there were very few women. I was wondering if you have had any experiences in crypto that you think you wouldn’t have had if you were a man? Let’s start there.
Aya Miyaguchi: 52:38
Interesting. I actually did not really feel any huge disadvantage or advantage as the women. It seemed like other people did, but it is true. I just stated the fact that since it was, I think someone was mentioning about women in blockchain and then trying to encourage more women in the space. And I do agree. It’s always better to have diversity, whether it’s gender or race or like, I think it’s better to have diversity, to have different opinions, to have more balanced, ideas. I don’t think it’s necessary. That means that we need to definitely have more women. But when I joined it was, it is true that when I went to my first Bitcoin conference back in May 2013 in San Jose, Kraken had a couple of women, but I didn’t really see any women in other companies or at the event. So I felt awkward that way for sure. Not that I had any advantage or anything. So it is great that we have more women just because I believe in diversity.
Laura Shin: 54:05
Yeah. And in your role as executive director of Ethereum foundation, you probably deal with a lot of men and probably men who don’t often work with other women. Does that present any challenge or not?
Aya Miyaguchi: 54:18
I personally do not feel any challenges because of that. I do believe that we love to have more diversity in terms of the gender balance. But no, I don’t really have any difficulties. But also maybe because I was a teacher before, I’m used to being with young gentlemen. You know, they’re very gentle and very pure and also very passion oriented, which is not just because they’re men. I just feel fortunate to be with very smart genuine people.
Laura Shin: 55:13
And do you have any ideas on how to get more women involved in Crypto?
Aya Miyaguchi: 55:17
I guess we just have to inspire more women. Like we do have a couple of women researchers and developers. Though I think it’s just to show that they are working with us is inspiring. And then actually I was asking Charlet in the research group, like she’s a developer, in Taiwan, I was telling her to speak at more events in Asian countries where gender… there is more gender gap and then I thought that would be inspiring for women. There are too few… they can also learn and then join the group or an organization like the Ethereum foundation.
Laura Shin: 56:07
Well, it’s been fantastic having you on the show. Where can people learn more about you and get in touch with you?
Aya Miyaguchi: 56:12 Thank you very much. My twitter handle is @mi_ayako
Laura Shin: 56:38 Thanks for coming on Unchained. Thanks so much for joining us today. To learn more about Aya Miyaguchi, check out the show notes inside your podcast episodes. New episodes of Unchained come out every Tuesday. If you haven’t already, rate, review and subscribe on Apple podcasts. If you like this episode, share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Unchained is produced by me, Laura Shin. With help from Elaine Zelby, Fractal Recordings, Jennie Josephson and Daniel Nuss. Thanks for listening.