As one of the few Black women at the helm of a major tech philanthropy, Briana Marbury oversees the Interledger Foundation as CEO and President. Interledger Foundation is a grant-making, independent foundation, which is driving forward financial inclusion for everyone. The foundation supports a global community of developers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and artists, who together are building solutions to remove barriers to access and equity within restrictive systems.
Here, we spoke to Briana Marbury to find out more about her inspiring work.
1. Could you tell us more about how the Interledger Foundation is promoting financial inclusion?
Today, many people have benefited from great technological advances, including paying bills online, receiving payments, and transferring money relatively easily. However, this convenience falls outside the reach of 1.4 billion people worldwide who have been left outside the scope of service for traditional payment systems such as banks. Through our work at the Interledger Foundation, we remove barriers and increase access to the essential digital financial infrastructure that makes life better, simpler, or easier. We do this by funding community innovators to build interoperable payment solutions with an open standard we steward called the Interledger Protocol (ILP). ILP allows for funds transfers regardless of form or currency, and completes the currency translation faster and more inexpensively than current systems in place. To date, we have awarded over $14 million for over 180 community led projects in 40 countries, and our ecosystem continues to grow stronger each year.
2. Could you share why systemic inclusivity is so important for powering business and overall economic growth?
In economically depressed regions around the globe, large financial institutions consciously decided to exclude low-income areas that didn’t meet certain criteria, including the ability to maintain a minimum balance in an account. They determined it was an insufficient return on investment to establish operations in these communities. However, alternate means for transacting were created with the invention of mobile money, where people use their phones to transfer money. Suddenly, people were able to transfer money between themselves and small businesses. Within 15 years of its creation, mobile money has seen explosive growth among underbanked communities, and those small micropayments deemed unworthy by banks now account for $1.2 trillion per year in transactions worldwide. This is a glaring example of how finding a way to provide services for everyone benefits society. It also demonstrates why it’s good business to be inclusive.
3. What impact could web monetization have on emerging markets?
Web monetization has the promise to empower all content creators with an alternative method of monetizing their work. Currently, businesses spend over 80% of their advertising budgets at the largest 2 or 3 platforms, which equates to billions of dollars each year. However, only a small fraction of the total revenue collected by these platforms actually go to the creators themselves. Replacing inequitable revenue-sharing models and invasive data practices with a seamless, private experience for consumers will not only drive user participation, but will also serve as a bolster for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
4. What do you believe are the greatest challenges for minority groups in the tech sector, and have there been times when you have navigated similar challenges working in finance and tech?
Too often, aspiring entrepreneurs from marginalized groups with innovative ideas are overwhelmingly passed over for funding in lieu of those from more affluent backgrounds. As an example of how stark the disparity is, in the United States, only 4% of total venture capital funding goes to Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, although these two groups collectively make up 32% of the population. Personally, I’ve had to maneuver through delicate situations that I’m pretty sure a white, male peer would never have to encounter. Unfortunately, my experiences are not unique. This is why genuine DEI efforts are so imperative in all industries including, but not limited to, finance and tech.
5. What are some of the most effective strategies for encouraging greater diversity in the tech sector?
Introducing a range of voices into a conversation can be transformational in adding breadth and perspective. Conversely, limiting participation to a privileged few can lead to groupthink and stale outcomes. At the Interledger Foundation, one of the reasons we’ve been able to create a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, opinions, and challenges, is because inclusivity is not just an initiative, but is woven into our proverbial fabric. Hearing other viewpoints and experiences besides our own allows us to continue to grow and evolve as an organization. For us to succeed in our mission, diverse perspectives are not just welcomed, they’re necessary. Bottom line: diversity is good for business.
6. What trends do you think will dominate the tech philanthropy space going forward?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), without a doubt. Most subjects and articles involving tech include it, everyone asks about it, and others are figuring out how to incorporate it. Entire campaigns are being built around it, with its help in more than a few instances. Some are worried it will render their positions obsolete, yet many are excited about using its innovative possibilities. One thing is for certain though, it’s here to stay.
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