Episode 10 with Isabella Yu

Written by Xinlan

On February 28, 2020

We welcomed Isabella Yu, a blockchain consulting expert. Isabella is a Managing Partner of KoinEra, a blockchain consulting agency in New York, which leaves her with much experience in the blockchain world. Graduated with a degree in Mathematics and growing up with parents who are both traders in China, Isabella has shown great interest in finance and technology. Being an early adapted trader since 2013, she shares her experience by running an investment firm with a focus on blockchain technology and digital assets. According to Forbes, approximately 5% of the crypto enthusiasts are women and 17% start-ups are led by females. Isabella shares the challenges she faced in this industry for being a woman and how she overcame those challenges. Isabella also shared that she believed since the fintech industry is the combination of finance and technology, she has faced “double troubles”. Check out for this episode if you are interested in learning blockchain investment, cryptocurrency, or being a cryptocurrency trader- you will surely love Isabella’s interview!

Available on:

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Transcript

Angela– On episode 10, we welcome Isabella. How are you, Isabella?

Isabella– I’m good, how are you?

Angela– Good, good. So Isabella has been actively trading Cryptocurrencies and working in a blockchain space since 2013. (She’s an early adapter) In 2016, Isabella was vice president of China market, at Shuttle Holdings , a hedge fund. One of the first venture capitals for crypto assets and blockchain technology. Isabella managed the investments and relationships in Asia. She’s the founder and currently, a managing partner at Koin Era a venture capital fund focused on early-stage companies engaged in cutting edge digital asset technologies that aim to be pioneers in Web 3.0. So, now would you mind describing what Koin Era does and maybe you can describe what Web 3.0 is.

Isabella– Yeah sure, glad to do that! So Koin Era is an investment firm based in the U.S. and we have offices in China as well. So currently we are focusing on investment in the FinTech space, especially with a key focus on blockchain technology and digital assets. So, for Web 3.0., different people have different opinions on that, but for us, we look at Web 3.0. as a totally different episode of a web that is linked online and offline and everything that is related to the internet.

Angela– What do you mean by different people have different opinions about it, is it a controversial topic?

Isabella– Well, a lot of people especially in the crypto space and many people think that the decentralized way of thinking is the new Web 3.0. Where others have a broader idea (anything that can expand the current Web) is the new Web 3.0. We also look at artificial intelligence and we also look at IoT and some other spaces.

Angela– What made you want to get involved? Was there anything that interested you in particular?

Isabella– Yes, I think initially it was the money.

Angela– (laughs) The money? Okay! Good answer.

Isabella– So I got interested in trading through blockchain digital assets in 2013 and 2014 when Bitcoin was initially rising from less than $20 to about $1,000 in less than half a year. Both of my parents are traders in China, I think it came naturally to me.

Angela– Is that where you learned about it?

Isabella– Yes, the basic tricks. That was the first time I noticed the asset and then I did my own research on Bitcoin. I tried to figure out the underlying value around it and why people are going crazy for it. So, I read Bitcoin Whitepaper and also a lot of reports from different organizations. I got really intrigued by the decentralization idea and I think Bitcoin will open a new world of frictionless transaction and information sharing across political borders. I think it is a great opportunity to capitalize on this disruption technology.

Angela– So you do think it’s the future?

Isabella– Yeah, I do.

Angela– Being a woman in the Crypto-world according to Forbes, only 5% are women, 17% of the startups are led by females. So, did you have any obstacles, especially when you founded KoinEra?

Isabella– Yeah, sure. I believe the obstacles are definitely there, especially for females. I also read the news that females usually receive less payment, less compensation, and have a ‘glass ceiling’, in the industry of Finance and Technology. For blockchain, I would say it’s a combination of Technology and Finance- so it’s “double trouble”. For me, when I first got into the crypto space, I remember from 2014 to 2016, when I went to different seminars, I may have been the only female in that room and it’s very easy to catch and not notice people ignoring me. They thought-

Angela– They thought “You’re a woman”

Isabella– Yeah, they thought “You’re a woman,” that I don’t know much about technology, I don’t know about the future, or about fundraising or anything around it.

Angela– Meanwhile, you read the whole Bitcoin White Paper.

Isabella– Yeah, but I tried to not be angry about it, and I just tried to do what I wanted to do. I proved to them that they were wrong by leading my team to provide technical support to projects internationally. We also did fundraisings for over 30 ICU projects worldwide and raised about $40 million in total. Then I set up my own fund and we invested and, we had over 10 times returns in less than 5 years.

Angela– And do you think that’s when people took you more seriously?

Isabella– Maybe! But I focused mainly on what I wanted to do instead of other people’s opinions. So, I think for female entrepreneurs, you can prove yourself.

Angela– Do you think that’s changed now in 2020?

Isabella– I think it’s definitely changing, especially in the blockchain space.

Angela– You do see more women being involved?

Isabella– Yeah, I do see more women be involved, like Blythe Masters got into a digital asset group and the leader for the JP Morgan coin is also a female as well. So, we do see a lot more women getting into this space and doing more than the supporting roles.

Angela– And what kind of challenges do you think blockchain technology is facing?

Isabella– It’s a very new industry and the scalability is still a big challenge in this industry

Angela– Very limited.

Isabella– In Bitcoin, the transaction speed is about 3 to 7 per second. For the cerium, it’s a little bit better with maybe 20. For EOS., it’s about more than a thousand. But compared to their centralized counterparties, Visa could do a million transactions per second. So, there’s a lack of scalability in this space. However, we are glad to see that there are a lot of technical people trying to improve the network by providing different solutions like sharding, lightning network, plasma, etc. that’s on the technology side. The people right now, there are not many blockchain developers out on the market.

Angela– Why do you think that is?

Isabella– It’s because it’s a new industry. It’s still in the infant stage, and we also don’t see universities providing coding courses that target blockchain.

Angela– And some are against it, don’t you think?

Isabella– I don’t know, but I do see there are universities providing courses now that are related to this space. I think the mainstream of people are noticing this technology and would like to know more and provide support. Also, the most serious challenge out there at this moment, are the regulations. We also see people getting hacked, getting scammed, because of the lack of regulation in this market. Just this weekend, there was an exchange for an app called, App Coin , the founder just ran away. And there are short of close to 7,000 to 13,000 worth of bitcoin. That’s the customer’s money, which isn’t there anymore.

Angela– I know I asked you this before and you did say that – you do see blockchain as the future. But what are your projections for the blockchain, and what do you think are some investment opportunities especially this year?

Isabella– Sure, I think there are two parts. First, on the crypto assets side. Right now, two years after their market you can see it coming up a little bit. This year with Bitcoin and other major coins, I do see a lot of potentials this year, with this last supply there will be a jump of the trading price of major cryptocurrencies.

Angela– So you do see a bull market there?

Isabella– I don’t see it becoming a bull market but, I do see it recovering from the bear market of the past two years.

Angela– Do you think the price increased way too fast for Bitcoin, and do you think that’s the reason why everything went down after that?

Isabella– Yeah, definitely in 2017, the whole world was getting crazier with the coin. From less than $2,000 to $20,000. Also, with the application of technology, I think this year, we’re going to see enterprise solutions, we’ve been working with IBM to provide some enterprise solutions to our startups. Also, I do see that to facilitate big corporation institutions to come into the trading of cryptocurrency, there will be more professional services of their custodian service and prime brokerage services.

Angela– Okay, so can we talk about business loans now, have you personally taken out business loans or maybe for your business?

Isabella– Yeah, sure. Personally, for us, we never took out business loans, but on the trading side we do take out “loans” like for trading we put up collateral there. So, it’s called “leverage” in trading. However, we do have a startup that we have invested in Brazil, that’s providing microloans to farmers and small businesses in Brazil. We’re using blockchain technology to track the loans, provide transparency to investors.

Angela– How has that been?

Isabella– It started in 2017 and we’ve raised $20 million for that startup. We’ve started to provide loan products and they are about $200,000 already.

Angela– Wow! Nice! Now, how do you manage your team? You have three different offices, each in three different cities. So, what’s your secret?

Isabella– I think it’s the trend nowadays to decentralize the team. I actually enjoy this setting more than if I were to have everyone in the same room, because we have team members in China, U.S., and London, and we can communicate with each other through the internet. WeChat, Telegram, WhatsApp, and email.

Angela– So you feel like you’re there right?

Isabella– Yeah, it’s close and it’s personal. In a decentralized way, people could manage their time much better and could work more efficiently. Instead of everyone being there from 9 to 5, and they all have to be there to work; they can also not be in the right mood or there isn’t much to do at that moment. So, in a decentralized team, they can leverage everyone’s time more efficiently.

Angela– What would you recommend to a young aspiring entrepreneur, especially one in your industry? Especially for women?

Isabella– Definitely! I mean, it’s generally not all males in our industry, but the most important thing is to be brave. When you’re deciding to be an entrepreneur, you are giving up so many things like your free time, your stable income, and your time that you are using to start the startup company. You can also be giving up your career in the industry so you have to be brave when you’re making the decision. If you really want to do it, just do it. Second, I think you need to manage your money well. Especially, when you’re a young entrepreneur and you got a lot of companies to start, a lot of people tend to throw their money away by throwing nice parties and showing off. But actually, I’ve learned that there’s never too much money to spend, and you should manage your money and always prepare for unpredictable circumstances. Especially, when the business just started.

Angela– And now, you’re becoming a mother, and I know that’s going to be a bit tough. You will face some obstacles with work and managing your time as a parent. So how have you thought about dealing with these challenges?

Isabella– Well, I haven’t felt much yet. There’s still one month to go, but I do see my friends and other females handling their family and career well. So, I have been seeing how they’ve been handling it and think positively. I think I’ll be able to balance myself well.

Angela– I think you will too, yes! So aside from crypto, are there any hobbies of yours that you would like to share with us? Or even maybe an interesting fact about you?

Isabella– Sure, yeah! I love snowboarding, but right now I can’t do it so I try to focus on work. Previously, during the wintertime, I used to love to go snowboarding.

Angela– That’s a fun hobby!

Isabella– I like to feel free and to challenge myself.

Angela– Okay, well thank you so much, Isabella!

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