In the constantly evolving world of technology, few individuals embody the zeitgeist of our time as strikingly as Marlene Ronstedt, a digital nomad who has successfully merged an unconventional lifestyle with a trailblazing career in the crypto industry.
Marlene was born and raised in Germany, but her life and career have spanned continents. From studying liberal arts in the Netherlands and Media Studies in London, to diving into fintech in Berlin, and co-founding the Data Union DAO, her journey is proof of the limitless opportunities that the digital age provides.
“Where I am physically doesn’t limit the impact I can make,” Marlene explains. “Living the life of a digital nomad has allowed me to connect with diverse cultures and ideas, feeding my curiosity and my work in technology.”
Her career in technology began during her master’s degree when she started writing for WIRED Germany. This experience opened doors to the world of start-ups and the thriving tech scene, eventually leading her to work with Finleap, Germany’s leading fintech incubator. However, the buzz and potential in the world of cryptocurrency caught her attention.
“I was intrigued by the unrestricted potential of crypto,” she recalls. “When I learned about how WikiLeaks started accepting crypto donations after traditional financial platforms blocked them, I realized the real power of this technology. It was a new world where individuals could play by their own rules.”
Marlene joined Neufund, a blockchain-based equity fundraising platform in 2018. Though the venture was ahead of its time and faced regulatory challenges, it marked Marlene’s initiation into the world of crypto. She quickly adapted to the rapidly evolving landscape, later joining Streamr, a decentralized messaging network, in 2019.
While at Streamr, Marlene co-founded the Data Union DAO, a project that empowers internet users to monetize their personal data. This effort led to the creation of over 500,000 crypto wallets – a significant achievement in the crypto space. “The concept of giving users control and economic benefit from their own data really resonated with people,” Marlene says.
Advocating for the Data Union DAO’s mission took her once again on a trip around the world. She spoke at various conferences ranging from Paris to New York to Hong Kong, driving global interest in the idea of owning your personal data.
Her journey didn’t stop there. Seeing the potential of zero-knowledge technology, she is now an advisor to Hyper Oracle, an early-stage start-up building a zk Oracle Network that enables developers to query on-chain data and verify its validity instantly. “The tech the team is building will really become pivotal for blockchain to mature in years to come,” she confidently asserts.
Her latest venture, Play by Ear, aims to support early-stage start-ups in Web3. It’s a platform that allows her to share her wealth of knowledge and experience with those poised to shape the future of crypto.
Marlene’s story is a testament to adaptability, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge. It shows how one can thrive in the global digital economy while living a life unbound by geographical constraints.
“Go to conferences and meet people,” Marlene advises those looking to break into the crypto industry. “There are tons of grants available to stay in hacker houses during conferences. You don’t need to be able to code to get involved. The definition of what a hacker is is pretty loose.”
Marlene’s journey illustrates that, in the digital age, borders are less of a barrier than ever. Her life is a testament to the power of curiosity and the impact one can make when they choose to embrace change, take risks, and venture into the unknown.