Our C-Suite Series highlights leaders in the crypto space driving real world adoption. In this interview, we speak with Michelle O’Connor, Head of Marketing & Community at Uphold. Formerly known as Bitreserve, Uphold gained momentum over the years by offering a collection of cryptocurrency based services such as an a crypto exchange, mobile app and upcoming Uphold Crypto Debit Card – all for trading between cryptos, national currencies, metals and more.
Tell us about your background. What got you interested in cryptocurrency?
I joined Uphold when it was Bitreserve in 2015 – before joining, I had only heard of Bitcoin a few times and didn’t know much about it beyond people were comparing it to digital gold. Of course, once I started, it was a crash course in crypto, blockchain, and this wild new world of digital currencies. Over the years, as the industry and ecosystem have evolved, it’s been wonderful to witness amazing projects like Brave, Dash, and others bringing real-world use cases and adoption to the digital currency space. The potential that cryptocurrencies, digital currencies, and blockchain infrastructure have to modernize the legacy financial system truly is fantastic – I could go on and on about this.
Do you have any hobbies? What do you do outside of work?
That’s a tricky answer – yes. I have two small children, a 3-year-old and a five-month-old, so my time outside of work is mostly keeping up with my toddler and snuggling the newborn.
When not wearing my mom hat, I enjoy hiking, tennis, and traveling. Before I became a mom, I traveled rather extensively. I lived overseas for an extended period in my 20’s – and whenever possible jump at the opportunity to explore a new city/country – especially now that we have a debit card with no foreign exchange fees – it’s almost a necessary part of my job to travel!
When did you (or what made you) decide to join a company in the crypto space?
When I was interviewing at Bitreserve, I was on the fence – having a background in lifestyle marketing and PR, making the jump to this burgeoning space was intimidating. I was sitting at Fort Mason in San Francisco, and the recruiter sent me a visionary video from the founder. TO this day, it is one of the most impactful videos I’ve seen – the concept (now 5+ years later) was so far beyond its time. There was such passion that emanated from this video and the team I had met with during interviewing — I had to leap of faith and now, nearly five years later, I am so glad I did. In essence, we may be a fast-moving start-up with a globally dispersed team of over 100, but we’re family – a diverse, driven family working together to build the future.
Did you learn anything valuable in the first 60-90 days of running your company?
I don’t run the company, but I learned the value of cross-team communication and what fast-moving start-up meant. We re-branded, launched new currencies, and new country connectivity all within the first 60-days of starting.
How do you deal with competition? What sets your company apart from others?
The old saying, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ rings true.
Competition is healthy and necessary – without competition, consumers aren’t able to make a decision based on their preference. Not every brand speaks to every consumer; what works for me may not work for my friend or family member – and that’s why we need choices.
As one of the legacy players in our space – it’s been wonderful to see the ecosystem evolve. With more companies working together, we will be able to push forward legislation, regulations, and real, tangible infrastructure needed to bridge old and new money systems.
What do you look for when hiring people at your company?
Preparedeness, tenacity and ability to think outside of the box.
There’s endless opportunity here – we encourage team members to think beyond their role, bring new ideas and processes to the table and become ambassadors for our company.
What is the one thing you wish your customers knew when signing up for your card?
You can seamlessly spend any asset we support (50+ currently) at any merchant or ATM in the Mastercard network. That means you can toggle between the assets; if you’re grabbing a coffee you can spend in one currency even Bitcoin, or Eth, then toggle to another currency at your next stop. You can even select which currency you want to withdraw at an ATM!
What does 2020 have in store for Uphold?
SO MUCH — The full launch of our US debit card; a European card later this year along with a referral program to help expand our community!
What is your favorite part of working in blockchain/Fintech?
The community – since I have been at Uphold for years now, and worked closely with our social media and community pages, I’ve gotten to ‘know’ a lot of our users all over the world! It’s been wonderful to see how their lives evolve alongside Uphold and their continued support.