Crypto thought leaders - Meltem Demirors
In the second of our crypto thought leaders series, we’re taking a slightly different tack from our profile of Andreas Antonpolous by featuring someone who is possibly less authoritative but arguably more entertaining.
All crypto thought leaders aren’t the same. They can be wild and bombastic or calm and clear. They might choose long-form writing or social media influence. In the case of Meltem Demirors, she is an intriguing mix of it all. A mainstay of crypto Twitter, with experience across many areas of the industry, Demirors has established herself as a crypto thought leader across multiple media platforms.
Who is Meltem Demirors?
Demirors was born in the Netherlands but her parents are from Southern Turkey. When she was 10, her family moved to a small town in Michigan, where her father went to work at Dow Chemical.
She holds a BA in Mathematical Economics from Rice University and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. After finishing her BA, Demirors worked for Deloitte as a strategy consultant in the oil and gas industry. She was then a corporate treasury analyst at ExxonMobil.
She learnt about Bitcoin on Reddit in 2012 but her first major role in the industry came with Digital Currency Group, which she joined as an early employee in 2015. Since then, she has invested in nearly 200 companies across the crypto ecosystem via a variety of firms, funds and investment vehicles. Now, she is Chief Strategy Officer at CoinShares, a digital asset investment firm.
Demirors also works with the World Economic Forum on its blockchain initiatives, lectures as part of the University of Oxford’s Said Business School blockchain strategy programme and has testified before the US’s House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on digital currencies. During this testimony, she famously described the Libra digital currency as “not a cryptocurrency” and fielded questions from Republican Warren Davidson of Ohio on what he referred to as “shitcoins”.
She has also co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jill Carlson called “What Grinds my Gears” and featured in Glamour magazine’s 2019 list of the top women in crypto.
Like many crypto thought leaders, Meltem Demirors is very active on Twitter. She has also published articles via Medium and other channels for some time now, as well as presenting and featuring on a number of podcasts.
What Grinds my Gears
This is the podcast presented by Meltem Demirors and Jill Carlson, which claims to look at “the bizarre and buzzworthy happenings in the world of cryptocurrency”. There are 29 episodes in total, with the last one released on March 26th 2020. Each episode delves into a key cryptocurrency theme, examining it through a broader financial, political and cultural lens to learn from the past and explore the future.
Demirors has regularly published articles on Medium for a number of years now and, as of 2020, does so via the Coinshares publication. Throughout 2018, she published a Leaders Series in which she interviewed female thought leaders working in cryptocurrency and called attention to their work. The series showcased a theme that Demirors has regularly referred to in her thought leadership, namely promoting women in crypto. In an interview for breakermag in 2018, she described how “brilliant women are leaving the companies they used to work for and starting their own thing. So I’m just trying to create a network to support other women and help them get awareness”.
Meltem Demiros writes
In October 2019, Meltem Demirors started this email newsletter. In it, she writes long essays about bitcoin’s history and the big ideas behind the industry. It tends to look at the history and development of the financial system, comparing traditional banking with the growing fintech industry and the more recent innovations surrounding the digitisation of money and payments. In one particularly noteworthy essay, called ‘The United States of Shitcoin’, she rails against Libra and other privately owned digital currencies, while extolling the benefits of Bitcoin and other open-source innovations.
Quotes and opinions
On why she got into crypto:
“With Bitcoin, I wanted to do something that was largely unexplored. There is a lot of passion and intellectual depth in cryptocurrency. Most importantly, there’s an openness that doesn’t exist in other industries and a lot of room for growth. People are willing to question the existing system and ask why.”
“I think most of us got into crypto because we believed it would change existing power structures in our world. However it’s become so dominated and driven by greed. And that’s not why I got involved.”
On the potential of Bitcoin and other digital currencies:
“Digital currencies present a chance for money to truly become information, and for the creation of a global financial system that is truly frictionless, open and uncensored - the vision we once had for the Internet.”
“In Dune, there’s this interesting tension between empire and individual...and I think that’s, for a lot of people, why they get into Bitcoin. Bitcoin feels like a way to reclaim some self-sovereignty when you’re in a political, economic and social system where you feel like you have no control.”
On the future of Bitcoin:
“I think five years from now, it would be very likely that 40% of Bitcoin mining, if not more, is onshore in the United States. It's very likely that governments will view big cryptocurrency networks as part of national security strategy.”
“There are a lot of people who are trying to sell this narrative around Bitcoin as a systemic hedge when in fact, they're taking their bitcoin and they're shoving it right back into the financial system, which effectively negates that sort of argument.”
Thought leadership status
Meltem Demirors achieves crypto thought leadership status as a result of her long-term involvement in the industry, her breadth of experience and her regular publishing of content during this time.
While some may see her as a mainstay of Crypto Twitter rather than a thought leader on the level of Antonopoulos, her ability to marry major macro and historical themes to the often wild and wonderful ride that is crypto makes her stand out as someone who is always worth listening to.