Meltem Demirors MBA ’15 has been applying her adventurous mindset to the cryptocurrency space since 2015. “I like to make mischief,” says the chief strategy officer at digital asset management firm CoinShares. “Generally, in financial services and asset management, people are very serious—I just believe that life is supposed to be fun and engaging. Our relationship with money needs a major overhaul.”
Her sense of adventure is what helped her take the leap to enter the digital currency space. After learning about leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin on Reddit in 2012, Demirors honed her interest while at MIT Sloan, joining the MIT Bitcoin Club and cofounding the MIT FinTech Club (for students interested in technology that disrupts traditional financial services). She also worked with the Media Lab to create a class on blockchain (the digital ledger technology created to support Bitcoin) and delved into the Boston FinTech startup scene through networking and internships at several Boston-area startups. After graduation, she passed up more secure options to move to New York City for a role as vice president of Digital Currency Group—she joined as an early employee in 2015—a venture capital company focused on the digital currency market, now one of the world’s top crypto investment companies.
“One of the things that Sloan really highlighted for me is that it takes courage to follow your passion,” says Demirors, who took the job before her role was mapped out and funding was secured. “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.”
A lot of what I do continues to be the same as what I did my very first week in crypto-land: taking complicated ideas and breaking them down and making them accessible.
Demirors notes that her main priority, growing CoinShares, “is directly intertwined with building the legitimacy, credibility, and accessibility of this new asset class. A lot of what I do continues to be the same as what I did my very first week in crypto-land: taking complicated ideas and breaking them down and making them accessible.”
And Demirors says that work is finally paying off, as she has started to see investor interest in Bitcoin increasing in the last couple of years. “People’s perception of Bitcoin’s volatility has changed largely because equities and other markets have now become extremely volatile, and I think we’re seeing a repricing of assets across the board. The variety of ways that this industry is impacting other sectors has been really exciting to see.” She explains that previously the way most people could engage with Bitcoin was to buy it. Now “there’s a variety of different ways to engage, whether that’s through yield-generating activity, venture capital funds, credit and asset-backed lending—there are now public equities that provide exposure to different parts of the blockchain and crypto narrative. The ecosystem has matured a lot.”
A member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Blockchain Council, Demirors lectures at MIT and the University of Oxford and has been invited to testify before Congress on the importance of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to American innovation. Glamour magazine featured her in May 2019 as one of the top women in crypto. But to her, the most rewarding opportunity has been the ability to invest in more than 180 companies in the last five years. “Having the opportunity to work with so many amazing, visionary, highly motivated people and to be a part of the journey of building something new that changes our perception of what’s possible—that’s been a really wild and fun and complicated ride, and that’s the best thing you can ask for in a career.”