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Fintech Founders: Katharine Leigh

Katia Lang, CEO TFT speaks to fintech founders about their business vision and challenges in the world of fintech and blockchain

Katia: What lead you to start the company?

Katharine Leigh, Leader & Founder

Katharine: Ocean conservation will always be my passion, seafood became my focus. Recently, I realised that “seafood data” is not just about products, it’s about entire businesses, businesses fully-dependent upon the context within which they operate: the environment. Furthermore, data is evidence of action; if you incentivise data, you incentivise action. I created SmallScaleOA to restructure incentives within the seafood industry and our coastal communities (initially Indonesia) to encourage collaboration, long-term thinking, and resource conservation.

Katia: What’s the main problem you’re trying to solve?

Katharine:  Of fishing people aquaculturists, 85% live in Asia and 90% are small-scale. Though Indonesia is the second-largest wild-caught seafood producer, and third-largest for aquaculture, environmental change is compromising Indonesia’s coastal resilience. 88% of Southeast Asian reefs are ‘at risk’ and fisheries landings are already 64% higher than can be sustained. Just ocean acidification alone is expected to cost the world $1 trillion annually by the end of the century. The seafood industry needs cheap, yet reliable information to monitor their operations, inform zonal management, provide evidence of compliance, and identify risk factors and associated mitigation/adaptation strategies. Yet, data is sorely lacking. Existing in-water, observatories only cover 9 – 15 per cent of global ocean surface at rough resolutions. Plus, today’s technologies are inaccurate, too expensive, or require high levels of operational expertise.

Katia: What’s your vision behind the company? How is it going to change the world?

Katharine: SmallScaleOA (SSOA) is a novel, incentivised, blockchain-based strategy to support coastal resilience. SSOA could enhance fisheries/farm productivity and efficiency; zonal management and marine spatial planning; product transparency/traceability for quality and safety programmes or certification schemes; and even access to insurance, capital, investment, and financial services. Through inclusive, low-cost, localised data collection, sharing, and processing, SSOA will connect fishers/farmers/researchers to each other and their surrounding communities.

Katia: Does it make any difference being a female founder VS a male founder in Blockchain?

Katharine: It is hard to tell if being female has been a major factor in my experience thus far. I can say it makes me hyper-aware. I have certainly heard stories from several women about the uphill battles they have had to fight due to their gender, so it makes me stay alert. I have heard that female start ups tend to get dramatically less initial funding in the idea stage, than those launched by males. There is no way for me to know if SmallScaleOA has been affected by this, but it is something I occasionally wonder about. My more concrete experience of being female is just being a minority. I expect to see more males than females at the blockchain events I attend, but I also have found ‘women in blockchain’ types of groups to be very active and visible.

Katia: Your main piece of advice to other women in tech

Katharine: Keep going! If you love it, do it. Be diligent and do the best business and science you can. If for some reason your gender (or someone else’s) is brought up, call it out and stand up for each other. You are not here to be a woman in tech, you are here to be in tech.

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