How I became a… crypto founder
Growing up, Tavonia Evans knew she wanted to change the world. She thought she might become a scientist, a researcher or perhaps an attorney.
Her early passions also didn’t hold many clues as to how her career would progress. “I was into cheerleading, I was creative, I loved graphic communications. Then when I was in college I was going to study history and travel the world,” she says.
But while she was studying history at the University of North Carolina A&T, she became interested in computer design and desktop publishing. A love affair with technology began, born out of her desire to problem solve.
“I started out by fixing broken code, which helped me to learn,” she recalls. “I’m a very good problem solver, I can solve any problem, I don’t care what field it’s in! If there’s a problem to be solved, I’m not going to stop until I solve it.”
Her tenacity paid off, and she started working on open-source ecommerce platforms fixing glitches, before moving on to writing her own code. “Every opportunity I got to learn something new, I would take it - that’s just my love of tech in general.”
She decided to deepen her technological understanding by studying at the Central Georgia Technical College. She got her first tech job at the University of Georgia, doing network computer troubleshooting. “I thought that was super fun!”
Evans went on to work as a software engineer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Georgia Department of Education and AT&T before launching peer-to-peer verification platform Safe2meet in 2014. It was around this time that her interest in cryptocurrencies began to develop.
She was initially dismissive of the technology. She recalls a colleague introducing her to bitcoin in its early days, but was unimpressed.
“Back then the wallet was a big, clunky, desktop hardware wallet that took all day to sync,” she says. “It just wasn’t that sexy to me. Fast-forward to 2014 and I got to see it being used in more ecosystems, saw how it was being used, and then it clicked.”
What changed her perception was a realisation that may sound simple but often gets passed over in people’s confusion around cryptocurrencies. “Crypto is money. New money, but the kind of money I feel like we’re going to be engaging in every day, on a normal basis in the coming future,” Evans explains.
Demystifying decentralised currency
Much of her role as a crypto founder centres on helping people understand just that. “My job is split between creating greater access to cryptocurrency and educating people, evangelising about the power and benefit it has for common people.”
In Evans’ view, people often get caught up in the technical intricacies of how cryptocurrencies function. This, she suggest, can stand in the way of them using it to better their lives.
“The funny thing is, people don’t know a lot about traditional money, either, and they use it every day,” she says. “The main advantage of cryptocurrency is that it can empower regular people by removing the power structures, giving people more direct access to be able to do business with one another financially. Initially we need to get more comfortable with crypto as money, then we can get more into the technology.”
She launched her own currency, Guapcoin, in 2017. It is the first publicly launched, decentralised cryptocurrency designed to address the economic and financial concerns of the global African diaspora community. In the five years since it was first developed it has amassed more than 10,000 wallet holders.
This mission is what keeps Evans interested. She describes how she wanted to help a community that has been chronically underserved by the traditional financial establishment: her own.
“I have a little bit of a superwoman complex - I want to save the world! So I like that I can potentially impact the lives of many people in a positive way,” she says. “I wanted to appeal to the Black community because I feel like we’re always last to the party and now we have an opportunity to be first. My vision is for Guapcoin to be a global cryptocurrency for the people in general - the 99% versus the 1%.”
What skills does a crypto founder need?
This ability to get people excited about cryptocurrency and to explain it in terms people can understand, is one of the core skills a crypto founder needs, Evans believes. “When I talk to people, they understand. They say ‘I’ve been in crypto or around the industry for two to three years and the 30 minutes you’ve just talked to me has demystified so many things’.”
Being able to understand people and have them understand you is crucial for any business, Evans believes. “With tech leaders, often their skill is tech when what they really need is people skills. They have to understand how people are going to use whatever they build, they have to be relatable.”
This is, she says, the secret to Steve Jobs’ success with Apple. “He took Apple to a place that was much more people-orientated than Microsoft, so even to this day you get people who are die-hard Apple fans.”
As if a mission to change the world wasn’t enough, Evans is also a mother of eight. She has brought up her children alongside completing her education and founding four businesses.
“When you have that many kids, you’re actually running a corporation,” she laughs. “I find running a company so similar to managing a bunch of kids who are all different.”
While she has no current aspirations to start a family business, her 18-year-old son seems to be following in her footsteps, running his own game development company. A new tech-savvy generation, brought up using a cryptocurrency which can bring financial security to the masses? The future is bright.