Women in FinTech: Perseverance & Resilience


Women in FinTech: Perseverance & Resilience
Nobody survives in the startup world without a healthy amount of perseverance and grit.
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In conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2024 FT Partners released their fourth annual "Women in Fintech" report. It included a feature interview with Bitwave Co-Founder and COO Amy Kalnoki, along with 24 others leading female founders, CEOs, executives and investors in the FinTech industry.

The report delivered insight into how perseverance has played a role in each woman's career and what work still needs to be done to further diversity in the industry.

This interview below has been excerpted from the full FT Partners' Women in FinTech Report.


Amy's Fintech Background

FT Partners: How did you begin your career and how did you get into FinTech?

Amy Kalnoki: My journey into FinTech began with a passion for entrepreneurship and technology. After cofounding Synata, an enterprise search engine that was later acquired by Cisco, I became really interested in the intersection of finance and technology.

It was during this time that my co-founder, Pat White, introduced me to Bitcoin, blockchain networks, and the potential power of decentralization finance. That sparked a fascination with digital asset applications for the business world. So much of banking tech is built on archaic technology.

This ultimately led to the founding of Bitwave, where we aim to bridge the gap between blockchain technology and traditional finance, revolutionizing how enterprises manage their financial operations. At Bitwave our goal is to enable digital assets for enterprises – and on day one, enterprises need tax and accounting software for crypto. You can’t have assets moving in and out of your business without keeping proper financial records. So, we set out to build that. And even though Bitwave is in the web3 space, we are a traditional Enterprise Saas FinTech.

Perseverance & Grit

FT Partners: How has “perseverance” and “grit” played a role in your career? Are there any particular moments that come to mind, and if so, what new perspectives did you gain from them?

Amy Kalnoki: Nobody survives in the startup world without a healthy amount of perseverance and grit. I always say startups are like both a roller coaster and a marathon. There are a lot of ups and downs, and you need to be committed to it for the long run.

At Bitwave, we’re not just building and scaling a new product, we’re doing it in a rapidly evolving ecosystem. The web3 world is still incredibly early, which presents both a lot of unknowns and complexity, but also a lot of passion and excitement. I get to be on the bleeding edge of a brand new discipline, digital asset accounting, and drive innovation in the FinTech space. It is thrilling and really motivating, even if it is stressful at times.

The macro crypto ecosystem can change fast, so a big part of our success has been our ability to keep a finger on the pulse of where the biggest opportunities are. Years ago, there was the ICO book, then the summer of DeFi. Two years ago, NFT’s were the hottest thing on the market. If we had pivoted completely to NFT’s at that time, we would’ve had some serious growth challenges this year. Staying focused on our long-term vision while staying up to date is difficult and requires discipline and perseverance.

It’s not enough to understand what’s most important for your customers today. You have to be ready to meet their needs in the future.

Support Systems

FT Partners: What support systems have you leveraged over the years? Have you had any key mentors that made an impact or inspired you?

Amy Kalnoki: I've been fortunate to have a strong support system throughout my career, including mentors and advisors who have provided guidance and inspiration along the way. My Bitwave co-founder has been a particularly influential figure in bringing me into the Web3 space as we built Bitwave together.

Pat introduced me to Bitcoin and blockchain technology back in the early days of crypto, long before we started Bitwave. I’m thankful he did, so when the opportunity came to found Bitwave in 2018, I was already well-versed in the space. We have different but complementary skill sets. His ability to combine technical expertise with strategic vision is a rare quality that supercharges our growth dynamic.

Recent Macroeconomic Environment

FT Partners: The macroeconomic, capital markets and fundraising environments have been challenging over the last couple of years to say the least. What lessons did you learn throughout this period as you continued to build out a successful business?

Amy Kalnoki: The past few years have been an incredibly volatile time for anyone working in digital assets. In the course of just one year, we saw the total market cap for crypto drop from an all-time high of $3 trillion in November 2021 down to a two-year low of $796 billion.

In the wake of several high-profile crypto scandals and collapses, we saw global regulatory bodies developing a wave of new legislation – which has a direct impact on the needs of our clients at Bitwave. I’d love to see even more regulatory clarity around digital assets, cryptocurrencies, and DeFi. The more regulatory clarity, the better because it would help more people and businesses use digital assets.

I’m excited about the potential for improved regulatory clarity for digital assets, especially after the recent FASB guidelines. This clarity has been a much-needed element that should help reduce some of the traditional barriers to entry for many enterprises.

Any time there is a difficult fundraising environment, I think you have to learn how to be leaner.

We developed a top-down approach for metrics-driven decision-making. This empowered our leadership team to make tough decisions about their day-to-day operations. With a more defined structure, we learned to set better boundaries about the types of engineering, marketing, and sales activities that our teams engaged in.

This leaner approach allowed us to stay focused on a long-term vision despite short-term market uncertainties.

The Future of Bitwave

FT Partners: What are you looking forward to in the year ahead for Bitwave? What’s the long-term vision for the Company?

Amy Kalnoki: In the year ahead, we're excited to continue expanding our platform and serving a growing number of enterprise clients. Personally, I’m excited about B2B stablecoin payments. Stablecoins for me are the tip of the spear for enterprise adoptions – and the use-cases are all about stablecoin payments. For blockchain in general I think it’s supply chain management with smart contract-based, stablecoin payments.

Leading global businesses like SAP, PayPal, and Visa are adopting stablecoins as an alternative method of payment and settlement since stablecoins and blockchain rails bring stability, speed, and cost savings to enterprise payments. Bitwave of course supports invoicing and reconciliation for B2B digital asset payments.

We’ve seen several positive trends in the digital asset landscape already – like the recent spot Bitcoin ETF approval by the SEC that’s responsible for more than $9.5 billion of new money entering into the Bitcoin markets since January 11, 2024. This is exciting because it is all about access to crypto. Bitcoin ETFs account for about 75% of new BTC investments. Now people who were previously uncomfortable or unable to invest directly in Bitcoin can get exposure to digital assets through one of the new exchange-traded funds.

This shows that mainstream digital asset adoption continues. This year, I expect millions of people will make their first interaction with Web3 without realizing it. Web2 and FinTech apps will maintain the UX/UI features consumers have come to expect of consumer products – but underneath they will be augmented by blockchain technology. I think this is fantastic and absolutely necessary. It shows that one day Web3 and blockchain will be so ubiquitous it becomes invisible.

Our goal is to be at the forefront of shaping the future of digital asset finance, and we see a bright future ahead. We continue to find new ways to enable digital assets for enterprises.

Empowering Women

FT Partners: As we look towards the future, what should leaders do to empower women, and further inclusivity and diversity in the FinTech industry?

Amy Kalnoki: Empowering women in the FinTech industry requires proactive efforts from leaders at all levels. This includes fostering a culture of inclusivity within organizations and providing mentorship and support to women and underrepresented groups in the industry. It’s also been incredibly exciting to see this trend continue in the blockchain tech space.

Women-led initiatives in the ecosystem, like the Association of Women in Crypto (AWIC) who recently launched a campaign called #unmanelyourpanel that asked men to promise they would not speak on an all-male panel at a crypto conference, and BoysClub with their “no bro zone” ethos, are consistently elevating women’s voices and empowering the next generation of diverse builders.

Professional & Career Advice

FT Partners: Do you have any advice you would like to pass along to other women just starting out in the industry?

Amy Kalnoki: My advice to women who are just starting out is to find a project that they are passionate about working on. There are so many great areas to focus on in the digital asset and blockchain industry. That’s the benefit of being in a nascent industry, there is lots to work on!

Attending networking events and conferences, especially ones hosted by other women or allies in the industry, is a great way to promote your startup or advocate for yourself and your ideas.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, accounting, or financial advice. The content is not intended to address the specific needs of any individual or organization, and readers are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax, accounting, or financial professional before making any decisions based on the information provided. The author and the publisher of this blog post disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use or application of any of the contents herein.