On International Women’s Day, the cryptocurrency sector might not be the most obvious place to look for stories of inspiring female entrepreneurs. It is no secret, after all, that the industry has had problems with gender diversity. Still, in a sector that has skewed male from its earliest days, BeInCrypto founder Alena Afanaseva is bucking the trend. And at the same time as taking on the sector’s “bro” culture, she’s also built that rare thing in the modern age – a profitable and independent news media business.
“It does sometimes feel like a boys’ club,” says Afanaseva of the crypto industry. “And women are underrepresented across the technology sector more broadly too; but we’re trying to play our part in confronting that challenge.”
In practice, that means two things. BeInCrypto itself has recruited significant numbers of women over the five years since its launch, appointing many of them to leadership positions in the local markets through which it produces its content. In addition, the platform produces a range of content designed to help new entrants to the crypto sector, including women, learn the skills they need.
The business has its roots in the period of initial coin offering (ICO) boom and bust in 2018. For Afanaseva, whose early career was spent as a financial analyst, the episode felt like a repeat of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, with inexperienced and unprotected investors doomed to suffer most. “It was a completely unregulated market where anything could happen,” she says of the crypto space at the time. “There was obvious return potential for investors in emerging technologies and their use cases, but no-one was supplying independent and trustworthy information.”
Afanaseva, an early investor in digital currency products, felt she could fill the gap. BeInCrypto was launched with a staff of just four to generate news and content on the fast-growing space. It deliberately set out to appeal to newcomers to the sector, rather than the existing clique of experienced and expert investors.
User numbers quickly proved Afanaseva had been right about the huge demand for trusted information. Starting from zero, BeInCrypto had attracted 500,000 monthly users within six months of its launch.
Building trust in the platform was critical. Unlike many other content producers in the crypto sector, BeInCrypto took no investment from crypto market participants; for the first six months, it didn’t even sell advertising. Today, the company remains completely independent of any crypto firm, though it does now depend on an advertising-led business model.
Afanaseva also points to the company’s decision in 2021 to seek accreditation from the Trust Project as critical in building trust with its users. The initiative sets out eight areas in which media organisations must meet minimum standards on transparency and accuracy, underlining BeInCrypto’s impartiality.
That track record, combined with growing interest in the crypto sector – and the broader Web3 phenomenon – has seen the company accelerate at pace. Today, it has 20 million monthly users who consume content produced in 14 different languages by a team of more than 250 staff; content is generated in local markets, rather than translated from a single team working in one location.
Commercial success has followed that growth. BeInCrypto broke even within two years, Afanaseva explains. “We’re proud to be an independent news media organisation with a positive cashflow,” she says. The company’s seven-figure revenues largely come from advertising, though initiatives such as a jobs market for crypto vacancies are also making an increasing contribution.
Looking ahead, Afanaseva sees BeInCrypto growing across all three of its current business strands. Its “Learn”-focused activities help users build knowledge and skills across the Web3 space, with the business planning to launch a new service, known as Academy, to augment this support. Its “Work” strand concentrates on tools and services that enhance the candidate experience and facilitate team building for industry partners. Its “Think” stand encompasses most of the business’s traditional editorial work.
Meanwhile, the commitment to running a diverse and accessible organisation is also continuing. “The whole industry has to become more inclusive,” Afanaseva insists. For BeInCrypto’s part, that will mean an ongoing effort to promote diversity and empower women. The firm has pledged to achieve balanced representation at team and leadership levels.
More broadly, Afanaseva is convinced that an industry that has often attracted macho investors focused on speculative, short-term gain, has much more to offer. She points to the way crypto assets have helped people in Latin America manage the impacts of high inflation, for example, or supported those without access to traditional financial products as they save and invest for their future. “This can be an asset class for everyone,” she insists. “But only when people have access to reliable news and feel well informed.”