How to make crypto interesting (and useful) for Gen Z and millennials.
Deana Burke wants everyone to join the crypto party. More specifically, she wants millennial women and teens (especially the non-technical ones) to understand the benefits of digital money.
Her solution is a social on-ramp of sorts — an app that’s part Venmo and part Snapchat, with lots of gifs and emojis to drive Bitcoin literacy among young people. The app is called Gracias
(an intentionally international branding) and it lets users easily send and receive Bitcoin. The idea came to Burke when, after selling her marketing agency to Indiegogo, she gifted a few of her coworkers — all young women in their twenties — a small amount of Bitcoin.
“Their reactions were really really surprising. They were totally pumped, but it was disproportionate to the value of the gift. It was around $20 in Bitcoin and they were like, ‘This is amazing!’ That was sort of an aha! moment for me. Here were these young, urban, tech-savvy women interested in Bitcoin, but there were systems that were keeping them out. It wasn’t until it became a social thing — when they got skin in the game — that it became real for them,” said Burke.
From there, it became important for Burke to drive crypto literacy among communities traditionally underrepresented in finance, meaning non-white, non-male and non-old.
“I wanted to create something that attracts a different type of person to this community because if we don’t, we’ll just be creating the same system except with digital money. We’ll have squandered this opportunity with this tool that we’ve been given to make real systemic change because we didn’t look wide enough.”
But how do you make crypto interesting (and useful) for millennial women and Gen Zers?
Collect feedback in your DMs
Burke has relied heavily on direct feedback from this group to intentionally design and iterate on Gracias. She’s conducted in-person interviews with users, ran surveys and personally messaged teens.
“My best friend right now is a 16-year-old girl who has a K-pop meme page. I’m just trying to learn how Bitcoin would be valuable for her, if at all, considering she has an inherently international audience. My DMs are littered with those types of conversations.”
In these communications, Burke has found that Gen Zers see cryptocurrency much less as a vehicle for investment and much more as a currency. The younger the consumer, the more likely they are to want to spend their Bitcoin versus saving or investing it. They’re also more likely to spend it on things that their parents don’t love buying for them. The most common question Burke has received from the under 18 crowd is whether or not they can buy V-Bucks (the Fortnite in-game currency) with Bitcoin.
Millennial women want to make money
In a survey Gracias conducted with over 400 women ages 14-30 in the U.S., 100 percent of the participants had heard of Bitcoin, but 42 percent of that group said that not understanding Bitcoin prevents them from buying it. Gracias also found that 63 percent of the women surveyed would want to own Bitcoin if they knew they could make money from it.
“I've found that older millennial women respond most positively to this idea that bitcoin can 'level the playing field' for them when it comes to building wealth for themselves,” said Burke.
However, the price of Bitcoin is confusing for a lot of uninitiated people who think that you can’t ‘own’ Bitcoin without owning a whole Bitcoin. As a result, messaging around owning ‘pieces of bitcoin’ has worked for Gracias.
Decentralization doesn’t work, Satoshi Nakamoto does
Decentralization as a concept doesn’t work with this group, which was a finding Burke learned “very quickly and early on.” While the value of decentralization is touted among more traditional crypto communities, it doesn’t matter as much to younger generations.
In contrast, the volatility of crypto appeals to Gen Zers and millennial women.
“Most people are very drawn to ‘price goes up’ — this idea that it’s volatile and that volatility can work in their favor. It’s not my favorite thing to talk about, but it is something that people do gravitate towards,” said Burke.
Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, and the mystery surrounding him, also tends to get people excited because it “seems like a true-crime podcast.” The Gracias team has focused its literacy efforts around this idea of understanding crypto through stories, doubling down on platforms like Instagram
and TikTok to educate people who are new to the space.
Gracias raised $1.2 million from angel investors, including Idealab, Zynga co-founder Eric Schiermeyer and Tony Robbins, to build the first version of its product. Three months ago, the team kicked off their pilot program by giving 10,000 users a small amount of Bitcoin ($5 worth), simulating the gifting experience Burke originally had with her Indiegogo coworkers.
While the team is particularly interested in reaching “total Bitcoin newbies” with the pilot, there’s a constant, precarious balancing act in messaging that to young women and teens from diverse backgrounds.
“I wouldn’t want people to feel like this is a lesser product because it’s built for people who aren’t technical.”