BlockyDevs Industry Insights Interview with Alexandra Overgaag

In conversation with Wiktoria, Alexandra Overgaag shares her unique journey from  International Relations, Political science, and Digital Technologies background to becoming a key figure in the web3 industry. Overgaag's transformation, fueled by a fascination with the intersection of technology and social science, led her to found Thrilld, a platform aimed at solving the systemic problems of networking and collaboration within the web3 community. This interview goes deep into the motivations, challenges, and aspirations that define her path and sheds light on the broader implications for the industry.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Thank you for joining me today. To start, could you share your origin story and what inspired you to enter the blockchain industry?

Alexandra Overgaag: Absolutely. My blockchain journey started with a foundation in law and political science. My interest in the intersection of technology with social sciences led me toward AI research initially. However, I soon recognized the systemic risks AI posed to society and individuals, which shifted my focus to blockchain and cryptocurrencies around 2017. My entry into the blockchain sector was facilitated by DLT Talents, which helped me establish my presence in the industry and eventually led me to work for a blockchain infrastructure company.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: You studied in Florence, right? What did you focus on there?

Alexandra Overgaag: Yes, I pursued my first master's degree in International Relations and European Studies in Florence, followed by another master's in Politics and Digital Technologies in Rome. These experiences deepened my interest in technology's role within the social sciences.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: How popular is the blockchain and Web3 industry in Italy, based on your studies and experience?

Alexandra Overgaag: It was a minor part of my curriculum. The blockchain scene in Italy is quite insular, with most events and communications happening in Italian. This internal focus presents unique challenges and opportunities within the Italian blockchain ecosystem.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Moving on to Thrilld Labs, which you founded, could you explain its core functionalities and mission?

Alexandra Overgaag: Absolutely, and I'll try to keep it concise. The journey to Thrilld Labs began when I was working in the business sector of a blockchain infrastructure company. I encountered numerous challenges within the web3 space, especially in how businesses and professionals globally interact with one another—finding investments, jobs, collaborations, and even networking at web3 events seemed unnecessarily complicated.

I realized there was a systemic problem in our sector's ability to connect, collaborate, and do business effectively. This not only hindered individual projects but represented a significant opportunity cost from a broader perspective. Inspired by the inclusive spirit of web3, I imagined creating a free and open-access business platform. This platform would welcome web3 professionals worldwide, regardless of their location, who they know, or their demographic attributes. Our goal was to facilitate easier, more effective networking and collaboration within the web3 community.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: So, the core idea was to develop an ecosystem for better networking within the web3 space?

Alexandra Overgaag: Precisely. At its heart, Thrilld Labs is about networking, but it's designed to be much more. Beyond just connecting people, we aim to enable meaningful interactions—helping professionals find jobs, and investors, and collaborate on projects. For example, we've partnered with various events, allowing attendees to use our app to find and connect with relevant individuals nearby.

Additionally, we're about more than just networking. Thrilld Labs also focuses on building communities and providing educational resources. We've partnered with grant programs, support initiatives for women in tech, and offer learning opportunities about blockchain and web3. It's a holistic approach to connect people and foster growth, learning, and inclusion within the web3 ecosystem.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: As a mentor in DLT, Bitcoin, and NFT talents, what is your approach to mentorship?

Alexandra Overgaag: My mentorship philosophy is rooted in giving back to the community that helped me find my path in the blockchain world. I aim to inspire and assist others in navigating the Web3 space, sharing knowledge, and fostering mutual learning. My involvement in various programs and initiatives, including academic publishing and contributing to Cointelegraph, is driven by a desire to spread knowledge and learn from the community.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: You mentioned before that individuals without a technical background can still find opportunities within the web3 industry. Could you elaborate on how that's possible?

Alexandra Overgaag: Absolutely. My journey into the web3 space was from the business side, despite having a background in law and political science, not to mention my entrepreneurial experience in hospitality. You can indeed become a part of this industry or even find a tech company without a technical background. It's about envisioning how your solution should function, and its features, and then bringing the right people on board to help develop it.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: So, your role leans more towards the business and strategic side, also involving mentoring startups and inspiring others?

Alexandra Overgaag: Yes, though I hesitate to claim I inspire people—it feels a bit arrogant. I certainly hope to and aspire to do so. The feedback I've received suggests I might be making an impact, which is what I aim for.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Regarding Thrilld Labs, are there any future developments or plans you can share?

Alexandra Overgaag: We're on the brink of implementing a significant structural change, which I can't disclose in detail yet. However, a major product update has just been implemented enhancing our MVP with new functionalities. In the medium term, we're preparing for substantial growth and evolution.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Cryptocurrency and web3 often face skepticism, especially concerning their environmental impact. How do you address these concerns?

Alexandra Overgaag: It's important to differentiate the technologies we're discussing. For example, Bitcoin's energy consumption is a common concern, yet a significant portion of mining now uses sustainable resources. Moreover, the energy usage of the traditional banking sector and its processes, like quantitative trading, often go unquestioned. Web3 technologies, including Bitcoin, offer unparalleled benefits, such as financial inclusion for the unbanked. It's also crucial to distinguish between cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, as the industry evolves with new use cases that extend beyond financial use cases, certainly in convergence with other emerging technologies, including IoT. In my opinion, there are systemic and structural issues within web3 that deserve more focus. 

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Could you share more?

Alexandra Overgaag: Certainly. A notable contradiction within web3 is our reliance on centralized cloud services like AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Google Cloud. Despite our community's ethos of decentralization and skepticism towards large, centralized entities, many web3 projects still depend on these services for hosting. This reliance represents a broader, infrastructural dilemma.

Moreover, the influence of venture capital (VC) firms, particularly those based in the United States, significantly impacts which projects gain traction and grow. These firms have the financial power to decide the fate of various initiatives, often favoring projects with more commercial appeal. Consequently, projects not selected by VCs might struggle to gain visibility or support, despite their potential value or innovation.

This situation underscores the importance of commercial objectives within the web3 ecosystem, which, ironically, is financed by the same capital that has supported the tech giants we aim to diverge from. It’s paradoxical and highlights deeper systemic and structural challenges.

Addressing inclusivity, it becomes even more challenging for individuals who lack the 'right' connections, are women, or are from underrepresented regions, to make significant inroads into the web3 space. These barriers highlight the urgent need for the industry to self-reflect and work towards more equitable and accessible practices.

Wiktoria: It sounds like there are significant systemic challenges that need to be openly addressed and tackled by the web3 community.

Alexandra Overgaag: Exactly. While the issues of centralization and venture capital dominance are complex, they're critical conversations we need to have. The path toward a truly decentralized and inclusive web3 ecosystem requires us to confront these paradoxes head-on and collectively seek solutions that align with our foundational principles.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: For those eager to start their career in blockchain and web3, what advice would you offer?

Alexandra Overgaag: Great question! For anyone interested in diving into the web3 world, my best advice is to actively engage with the community. If there's a particular project that catches your eye, don't hesitate to connect with its community members. These interactions can open up numerous opportunities.

For those with a more scholarly inclination, read as much literature as possible about blockchain and web3, and consider sharing your insights and analyses. This can be a fantastic way to contribute to the field, even if you're not directly creating technology.

If you're drawn to specific aspects like web3 marketing, delve into studying current practices within the space. There's also the option to gain practical experience by interning or volunteering with companies in the industry. Essentially, the key is to start somewhere and actively participate in ways that align with your interests and skills.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: Thank you so much. It was truly interesting to hear these insights from your experiences and perspectives.

Alexandra Overgaag: Thank you for having me and for your engaging questions. It was a great pleasure to share my journey and thoughts with you.

Alexandra Overgaag's insights provide a comprehensive overview of the web3 landscape, highlighting the critical need for a more inclusive and connected ecosystem. Through Thrilld, she seeks to address these challenges by offering a platform for professionals to engage, collaborate, and grow in the web3 space. Its mentorship roles further illustrate its commitment to supporting talent and innovation in the sector. Alexandra's discussion with Wiktoria not only highlights the potential of blockchain technology but also highlights systemic and structural issues that need to be overcome. As the web3 industry evolves, figures like Alexandra play an important role in guiding its progress toward a more equitable and decentralized future.

latest from blockydevs' blog