Women in crypto: Laura Shin

Laura Shin talks about the dominance of crypto, her podcast ‘Unchained’ and why non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are the future

Laura Shin                                 
Photo: Laura Shin
                                

Laura Shin’s profile

Residence: New York City

Current role: Journalist and host of the podcast ‘Unchained’. Author of the forthcoming book The Cryptopians: idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze

Previous roles: Senior editor at Forbes

Social media handles: @laurashin on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Laura Shin’s biography

Laura Shin is a crypto journalist and the host of the crypto podcasts ‘Unchained’ and ‘Unconfirmed’, which have had over 15 million downloads and views.

Formerly a senior editor at Forbes, she was the first mainstream journalist to cover cryptocurrencies full-time, and is currently the author of the forthcoming book, The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze, which is available now for pre-order and will be shipped as of 22 February 2022.  

Shin has spoken about and led discussions on cryptocurrency at places such as TEDx San Francisco, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Singularity University and the Oslo Freedom Forum. In 2016 she won the Blockchain Award for Most Insightful Journalist.

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honours from Stanford University in Stanford, California, and has a master of arts from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York City, where she currently lives. 

Stanford University, where Laura Shin obtained her honours degree
Shin completed her undergraduate degree and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honours from Stanford University in California - Photo: Shutterstock

When Laura Shin joined Forbes as a contributing writer in 2013, she had already made her mark as a successful journalist. She had previously held titles at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBSinteractive and Newsweek.

Shin quickly became enthralled with the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain as she recognised how these technologies provided the ubiquity and acceptance of digital currencies, and the ability of crypto to disrupt the world of finance.

“I could just see that it would change the world – that the technology was significantly better than existing technology in financial services,” she says.

“It just seemed inevitable that this superior technology would win out. The main question was how.”

The early days

Shin completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University in California, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honours. 

She moved to New York City in 1998 and started her career as a writer that same year. Ten years later, she completed her master’s degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 

She joined Forbes as a contributor in 2013, and during her time there won the CoinDesk/Blockchain.com Award for Most Insightful Journalist. “In 2016, I started my podcast, ‘Unchained’, while working as a contributor for Forbes. A year after that, I went full-time at Forbes as a senior editor and became the first mainstream media reporter to cover cryptocurrency full-time.”

In 2018, Shin gave a TedX talk in San Francisco on how crypto could enable more people to become their own bosses. 

Shin’s interest in technology and cryptocurrencies

“I discovered the world of cryptocurrencies and I became obsessed, and I wanted to write exclusively about that. I was hungry for something new,” says Shin. Her interest in technology grew as she recognised how innovation could change people’s everyday lives, and contribute to social and economic development. 

“At the time, I was spearheading the first Forbes Fintech 50 list, so I was well-acquainted with the shortcomings of the banking system.”

In 2016, Shin discovered that Forbes was launching its own line of podcasts and pitched her own podcast about bitcoin and blockchain technology. 

“Though the inaugural set of Forbes shows was supposed to have 12 podcasts, this was how mine, Unchained, became the 13th,” she wrote in a blog post on Medium. Although her podcast was dropped by Forbes a year later, Shin was able to secure a sponsor to keep it going. 

Then came the volatility of 2017, when the crypto market neared its peak. At this time, Shin began working at Forbes full-time as a senior editor, doing what she had requested for years  – “to only cover crypto and nothing else”. As the global interest in crypto grew, so did the listeners to her ‘Unchained’ podcast.

“In short order, I published a cover story on initial coin offerings, and I’m proud to say this may be the only Forbes cover featuring someone with a mullet,” she wrote.

While at Forbes, Shin recalls a volunteer helping her with the podcast to analyse the data and listeners, and quickly recognised she could generate ad revenue greater than her salary.

She left Forbes soon after to focus solely on her podcast. ‘Unchained’ has since had over 15 million downloads and views to date.  

“The main objective was just to cover the space and talk to interesting people.” 

Pushing the boundaries for inclusivity 

Shin believes it’s imperative to raise awareness around the deeper complexities and unspoken rules between gender bias and finance, and to move away from labelling the crypto world as a “boy’s-only club”.

“The bar here is low,” she says. “As Rik Willard [founder and manager of Agentic Group, a New York-based federation of over 50 blockchain companies] put it in a recent panel I moderated at ‘Unfinished Live’: ‘Don’t have naked women in body paint or booth babes at crypto events. 

‘Don’t come up with all kinds of memes that make it seem as if women couldn’t possibly be interested in crypto or that we’re only accessories to the men who are interested in it (in other words, “We’re getting girlfriends,” “Wife-changing money”).‘ ” 

Shin continues: “When women talk about the fact that there aren’t as many women in crypto as there should be, don’t dismiss those concerns by saying there are no barriers to entry and that women just aren’t interested.”

Instead, she says, there should be active discussions around the numerous factors that result in there being so few women in crypto. “Try to counter them by making an effort to be more welcoming to women in the space or those outside who are interested in it.”

“The bar here is low. When women talk about the fact that there aren’t as many women in crypto as there should be, don’t dismiss those concerns by saying there are no barriers to entry and that women just aren't interested.”

Her advice to women in crypto

Shin explains that working independently as a journalist has meant that people may sometimes treat her better than they would as she herself is covering the topic.

“I’m as close as you can be to working in crypto without actually being in it,” she says. “That being said, I’ve been ‘mansplained’ to by men in the industry with zero journalism experience, and I see a lot of sexist things day in and day out that are pretty old-fashioned and embarrassing for the space. 

“There’s [definitely] a lot of denial from men that sexism and misogyny even exist, and that those issues could even be why there are so few women [in crypto].”

However, she also believes that if women are in the right place with the right people, the “crypto bro” culture shouldn’t be a factor on a day-to-day basis.

“There are pockets in the industry – typically among the serious builders and entrepreneurs – where the culture is more inclusive and aware, and not blind to its own biases. This industry has a broad range of people involved, so find the ones you can work with and then pursue your own joy.”

She adds, “I feel the people who need the advice are the ones blind to sexism.”

On her career-defining moment

Shin recalls winning the Most Insightful Journalist award from CoinDesk/Blockchain.com as a personal career highlight. 

“I’d been covering crypto for about nine months, and I remember when it was announced my attitude was sort of ‘#goals!’ since I felt I was really new at covering crypto,” she recalls.

“I was super-surprised when I was announced as one of the three finalists just based on community nominations, and then thrilled when I won. By that point, I was so in love with this beat, but assumed I didn’t know what I was doing since I was new. But that early vote of confidence made me realise people really liked my work and that my lack of experience didn’t matter,” she adds.

Shin also recognises that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and that it's important to look back on the lows as well as the highs in order to learn from experience. “Honestly, I can look back and say that I needed to go through the lows I experienced in order to learn from them and to make the highs all that much sweeter,” she says.

“I don’t have any regrets, and wouldn’t want to go back and give myself advice that would have changed any of the mistakes or make any of the successes less hard-earned."

Image of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on various screens against a digital background
Shin believes that NFTs will bring in the mainstream in a big way – Photo: Shutterstock

Powerful disruptors: NFTs and other crypto trends

Shin believes that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital collectables will continue to disrupt in the mainstream in a big way and outweigh industry expectations. 

“Regulation will shape how the industry develops. Stablecoins and central bank digital currencies [CBDCs] will continue to grow. And that will teach people how to interact with crypto and what changes in behaviour they need to adopt in order to transact securely,” she adds.

“After we get people comfortable with the technology via those things, then I think the real fun begins.”

Further reading: Women in crypto: Amber Baldet, CEO of Clovyr

Further reading: Still too few women in crypto, say top female investigators

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