Meltem Demirors hasn't just been working in crypto for seven years -- she's been shaping its trajectory. Demirors, chief strategy officer at publicly traded European digital asset manager CoinShares, got her start in the space when she went to MIT for business school and became immersed in the world of fintech startups, back when Bitcoin was the only major cryptocurrency in mainstream discourse. Soon after, she met Barry Silbert and Ryan Selkis, founders of crypto investment firm Digital Currency Group, and got involved as one of the company's earliest employees.
The rest is history, as Demirors told us on this Tuesday's episode of Chain Reaction. But even though Demirors first got into this field because of Bitcoin, and still "loves" the cryptocurrency, she's over the infighting in the crypto community, a tension that is particularly heated between Bitcoin proponents, known as "Bitcoin maxis," and staunch supporters of other blockchains. You can listen to the full interview with Demirors below.
"I think it has become highly polarizing. People in the industry more broadly self-identify as Bitcoin maximalists, people self-identify as crypto maximalists, there are all of these labels we sort of apply. But the truth is probably much more nuanced," Demirors said.
As with many other early adopters of crypto, Demirors' passion for its underlying technology stemmed in some ways from the ideology that shaped Bitcoin's inception, a largely skeptical political point of view that is critical of governments and institutions and seeks to use crypto as a means to reclaim financial power for everyday individuals.
"Everyone I interact with [in Bitcoin] is intellectually really engaged. There was a political element, which I found interesting because I've never really thought of myself as a political person," Demirors said. Being exposed to that element got Demirors thinking about the role of money in society and our political system, which helped her make the leap from her previous corporate finance jobs into the role at Digital Currency Group after graduate school.
Demirors admits the ideological fervor behind crypto has shifted as the asset class has gained popularity.
"We've recognized that in order for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to achieve adoption, we do need to collaborate with institutions," Demirors said. "I also think there's growing recognition that the regulatory environment necessitates certain types of behavior, as we saw in Tornado Cash recently. And so I think where we're at now is that it doesn't necessarily feel like revolution; it feels more like evolution."
She added that while she believes experimentation on the fringes of cryptocurrency still feels very revolutionary from a capability perspective, systemic change will take much more than just new technology.
"It involves policy, it involves institutions and involves education and a lot of other complex cultural and societal factors. I think we still haven't hit that major inflection point. And I think it will probably take some time to materialize," Demirors said.