Akina Ho, Co-Founder, AllStarsWomen DAO

Akina Ho is Co-Founder of AllStarsWomen DAO, Co-Founder for HK Proptech Alliance, and a thought leader in the AI and Web3 space. She is also an Advisor for Pi Labs acting as their Venture Partner for Asia with Boards and Advisory seats on Web2, Web3, and AI companies. She served as one of the executives who helped build a Unicorn in Hong Kong in 2017 with investors from FoxConn and Softbank. Akina is an Adjunct Professor at HKUST (Hong Kong University of Science & Technology) and a world-renowned speaker with notable media appearances on Bloomberg and Fox International about innovative technologies. 

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Akina shared her professional trajectory, insights on the most difficult part of the digital transformation journey, the three significant digital transformation trends to keep an eye on in 2024, her secret to striking a work-life balance, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Akina. Please tell us about your background and areas of interest.

I am currently the Co-Founder at AllStarsWomen DAO, a community that will be an investment DAO that invests in female entrepreneurs or male entrepreneurs that supports females in the Web3 or GenAI space. Prior to venturing into the next iterations of the internet and AI world, I have worked in the Silicon Valley in a few deep tech startups, helped built a Unicorn in Hong Kong and head digital transformation and innovation for a global real estate conglomerate. I guess all that led me to also become a Venture Partner (Advisor) for Pi Labs, a VC firm based in London, which is one of the largest VCs that invest in the latest leading technology in PropTech.

According to you, what are the key pillars to ensuring success in implementing digital transformation in an organization? What is the most difficult part of the digital transformation journey?

Transformation means doing things that no one has done before, changing the status quo, and venturing where the company has not gone before. Therefore, when one person is heading ‘change’ or leading transformative projects, they must understand that they are engaging in a ‘civil’ war, as the enemy is within the company. People who made the company successful are in charge, and they are comfortable with how they are running things. If you want to change the status quo, obstacles are just an understatement. So, if you want to be successful in implementing new ideas and changes, you must learn ‘The Art of War,’ as that will ensure you are 50% ready for this transformative role.

However, having a good proof of concept (PoC) delivered and finding the right team has always helped me ensure smoother operation. Building a PoC visualizes what you can do, establishes common ground, and develops a common language for all stakeholders to communicate what needs to be done for a ‘success case’.

What is most important is using a theory that I have created myself; it’s called the “⅓, ⅓, ⅓” theory. This theory was developed over 2 decades of experiences in startups, SMEs and MNCs. This theory basically means, whenever you want to change something or create something new for a country, company, business units, or team, ⅓ will want to change, ⅓ will sit on the fence and not want you to bother them, and the last ⅓ will never change for as long as they live. In such cases, whatever you want to do, start small and only with the ⅓ that want to change. We all know that there are no perfect projects, so when you are working with the ⅓ that want to change, they will work with you to fix and create new processes and procedures and acquire new talents or tech to make the ‘new’ initiative work. Once it’s successful, make a big announcement and give out awards; this is to showcase to the other ⅓ on the fence that ‘changes’ work and are ‘celebrated’. Slowly, these people on the fence will come over and ask for change. In time, you will have ⅔ of the company changing and moving forward. The other ⅓, they are either retired or replaced.

You are the Co-Founder & the Global Head of Business Consultancy & Head of Asia Pacific Chapter at AllStarsWomen DAO. Can you please tell us about this platform, its mission and vision?

AllStarsWomenDAO is a platform that is constantly bridging the gender gap in the technology industry, especially in the web3 and GenAI spaces.

We achieve this by challenging the norm through building a community for female and male leaders who support women. They come together to exchange ideas, support each other, and grow their businesses collectively. The community offers initial free consultation services for business plans, investment decks, strategy, legal matters, and marketing support. Additionally, my core leadership teams in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and soon-to-be-opened China office in Shenzhen curate events and collaborate with local governments and established entities to provide speaking opportunities to these founders at no cost. In major events, stages are typically reserved for ‘big shots’ and not ‘small startup founders’.

Since our first launch in early 2022, we have held both online and offline activities, participated in large-scale events, and helped our members launch their business onto the public stage at no cost.

However, all these activities are building the AllStarswomen DAO community and is not what AllStarswomen DAO is. AllStarswomen DAO is an investment DAO, where its members can have their own funds on a DeFi platform where they can vote to invest in projects that have been vetted by professionals for investment.

Which are the three significant digital transformation trends to keep an eye on in 2024?

  1. Adoption of GenAI for smart support, process automation, search, content creation in all forms, replacement of mundane duties, and many more to come as this is just the beginning.
  2. Leverage DAOs as a new form of setting up businesses.
  3. Real usage of the metaverse and NFT to revolutionize existing website, eCommerce, Marketplace and loyalty program.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion in tech? How important is it to have authentic conversations with leaders, professionals, and changemakers to create more acceptance across the globe?

Diversity and inclusion are always important, not just in tech. And bringing diversity and inclusion is the only way of bringing sustainable development across fields as male and female talents offer a variety of different skills and together, amazing outcomes are possible in any field. It is because talent and gifts don’t discriminate; they could happen to all, female and male. The more diverse or inclusive you are, the better the product and the more prominent future we can get. And what AllStarsWomenDAO is thriving to accomplish is to ensure leaders, professionals, and changemakers are aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion so we can create a brighter future for the next generation, leave a positive impact, and better ground for the future to start.  Most importantly, when there is bias, discrimination and barriers, we bond together and find a legal and intelligent way to break those practices and walls.

What, personally, has allowed you the success you have had in the role of a leader in technology?

What I really believe in is having a transformative mindset and being creative with backbone. Not afraid of standing up and asking for help when you are not strong enough.  Don’t give up and fight for fairness. If it’s too toxic and you cannot beat it, don’t become part of it, leave and find another place where you are valuable and can exercise D&I.

Thinking creatively and approaching challenges from new perspectives is what defines technology. To succeed in the industry, having an out-of-the-box mindset and being open to learning from failures and viewing them as opportunities for growth is crucial.

Especially when technology is advancing at a neck-breaking speed, we must embrace a transformative mindset and be open-minded in this era so that we can constantly improve and create new things with it.

The meaning of leadership can change from one era to another, how would you define the meaning of leadership today?

Traditionally, many executives steered organizations with a strict top-down approach. A new form of leadership is required because the workforce and talents have changed.  Technology has provided more information and knowledge to the younger generation and the need to create, lead and share is important.  New leadership needs to govern and lead by allowing decentralization of power through ‘guidance and inspirations’ with execution power.

Where or whom do you seek motivation and inspiration from? How?

I seek inspiration from people who dare to dream and create new things.  This includes big shots like Elon Musk down to the interns that I work with on new startup ideas.

What is your secret to striking a work-life balance?

Juggling many roles requires creativity in prioritizing what’s most meaningful. Before joining Pi Labs as an advisor and co-founding AllStarsWomen DAO, and serving as an Adjunct Professor at HKUST, friends jested that I was the “busiest unemployed person” given my packed schedule of meetings derived from LinkedIn request, campus engagements and industry conferences. While such opportunities enrich my perspectives, none of it would be sustainable without true friends and family supporting me. I’m fortunate to be supported by amazing, good hearted, intelligent individuals who share and support my activities, even when they don’t understand my work or my reasons for doing it. Because they do, when we see each other and hang out, we enjoy being together and anything we say is positive and fun! That is the break I need, as it fuels me for the days ahead!

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

For AllStarsWomen DAO, our investment DAO is fully subscribed (100,000 members) and we have one of the largest war chests and successfully run investment entity (it will have hundreds of millions of USD a year contributed by our AllStarsWomen DAO members) to invest in female and male entrepreneurs that supports females in the web3 and GenAI space.

What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech?

  1. Find a community that is geared towards your sector that provides real practical support for your startup and ask for help.
  2. Find reputable events and seek free speaking spots, booths and sponsorship.
  3. Show that you and your team can weather all ‘ups and downs’.  Resilience and belief in what you do and when you are being bullied because you are a woman, stand up and shout for ‘justice’. Help will come if you do it properly and professionally.

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