Sofie Blakstad

CEO and Founder

hiveonline - building better economies for financially excluded entrepreneurs in developing countries, and building research on how blockchain and emerging tech can underpin the new economy for the next billion

A lot of my job is about communicating my vision and bringing people into hiveonline - customers, investors, partners and media. Otherwise I oversee our product and technology strategy, ensure the company is run in a legally compliant way, keep on top of financials to make sure we stay solvent and provide leadership and direction to the team.

I love making a difference, both helping our customers realise their potential through better opportunities, and through building a new economic structure that will be more robust than the old world banking system. I am incredibly proud of my team, who are all amazing people, very different from each other, but work so well together, more like a family than a business.

I spend about 70% of my time in meetings - we have regular team meetings to agree our work plan, check it's being achieved and resolve any problems that come up. Then we have special meetings for things like sales, product strategy, and business operations (finances etc). I meet customers for several hours a week, both existing and potential new ones, so part of that is checking customers are happy and part of it's sales. I also meet with a board member every week, and keep my board and shareholders up to speed. We're raising money at the moment so I also talk to potential investors. I also spend time with my direct reports, coaching and setting direction for them, and I spend a couple of hours a week with my co-founder and COO, deciding on day to day matters and longer term strategy. Other than that, I communicate via email, do research, come up with ideas for how to develop products and services for our customers, and do financial planning.

I had a weird career because I didn't do too well at school and have never got round to a Bachelor's degree. I started as a secretary in publishing and ended up leading a department, before my employer went through a merger and I started my own business. That didn't do too well but I had to teach myself technology to manage the computers, and when the business failed I started working in tech, first at a consultancy and then in banking. I was variously a programmer, project manager, IT manager, programme manager and transformation manager for eight international banks, where I implemented 5 core banking systems and a lot of payments systems, as well as doing business and product design. Meanwhile I talked my way into a MSc in Informatics (still without a Bachelor degree) and did a lot of reading in economics, physics, technology etc. When I was at Citi I had 13 African countries in my portfolio and learned a lot about how banks don't meet people's needs there. Eventually I decided the banks were never going to change the world, and blockchain came along, so I set up hiveonline to build the new economy for people the banks have left behind.

The digital economy is a very exciting place to be right now. We're seeing rapid developments such as major central banks starting to issue Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) which opens out new opportunities for financial inclusion and cross border trade, but also some big risks to less developed countries' economies. More privately issued currencies are being accepted by big banks and regulators, and now more people own phones than bank accounts. I think the distributed economy is just over the horizon, where people have more control over their identity and money, and more economic power without needing a bank account.

I like to write about economics and technology, and I'm a keen (and pretty good) cook - I travel the world in my kitchen! I also love to listen to opera, and sometimes sing along. I like going for long walks on the beach and swimming, when the sea's warm enough.

If you don't see anyone that looks like you in the room, that doesn't mean you don't belong in the room. It means that room needs you, and you do belong there.