Leading a tech startup

May 19, 2021
President of technology company drives social and economic innovation

When Alison Smith Mangiero graduated from the University of Richmond in 2005 with a bachelor of arts in leadership studies and political science, blockchain technology was far from mainstream. Three years later, the publication of a whitepaper on the digital currency bitcoin revolutionized the technology world. It also introduced the general public to blockchain technology, which uses digital lists of records linked together by cryptography that blocks access by unauthorized third parties. 

Mangiero jumped into the emerging world of blockchain technology in 2018 when she founded and became president of TQ, a company dedicated to advancing the open-source Tezos blockchain network. Blockchains are mechanisms that enable people all over the world to coordinate things, she explained. 

“To start the company, I had to articulate my vision in a way people could embrace and I could be proud of,” said the entrepreneur, who resides in the New York City suburbs.

To the casual observer, Mangiero’s evolution from a focus on leadership and political science to a focus on cutting-edge technology might seem unlikely. Not at all, she said. The common thread is her interest in how people organize and govern themselves, something she explored as an undergraduate at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies

"At Jepson, I learned how to treat people, interact within organizations, and make hard decisions," Mangiero said. "I learned skills that have enabled me to pivot and hold leadership roles in different fields from academia, to public policy, to membership organizations, to the tech sector."

Mangiero recalled her fascination with nineteenth-century French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, whose writings she first encountered in her leadership studies senior seminar led by Dr. Gary L. McDowell.

“We read ‘Democracy in America,’ Tocqueville’s seminal work on America’s new democratic system of governance," she said. "After visiting America, Tocqueville reported back to French aristocrats: ‘Hey, I’ve seen what equality of conditions makes possible! People are organizing themselves in a new way, and we need a new kind of political science for a world altogether new.’”

Much as Tocqueville explored the new political, social, and economic order unfolding in nineteenth-century America, Mangiero explores what she considers a new way of organizing, interacting, and transacting in the twenty-first-century digital world.

“Although blockchain communities are neither nation states nor traditional companies, they still need to govern themselves” she said. “The Tezos blockchain community spoke to me as a digital commonwealth that relies on stakeholder governance to connect people all over the world in a fundamentally new way. My interest in blockchain technology derives from how it enables social and economic innovation.” 

TQ (shorthand for the Tocqueville Group) is leading that innovation by building open-source software and other public goods and by convening the global blockchain community, its president said. Prior to the pandemic, TQ hosted global events for over 500 people in New York City, Paris, and Berlin.

In April, TQ spun off two new ventures, InterPop and Truesy. Both use non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are unique, irreplaceable units of data that are stored on a blockchain and serve as certificates of authenticity for digital items. NFTs make transacting and participating in the digital renaissance a truly enjoyable experience for creators, brands, and collectors, Mangiero said.

While NFTs have grown widely popular in recent months, Trusey and Interpop are unique because of their specialized areas of focus and use of the more environmentally friendly Tezos blockchain.

Truesy offers patrons a highly curated NFT marketplace featuring iconic work by artists, unique brands, designers, elite athletes, musicians, and entertainers. InterPop uses NFTs to power a trading card game, comic series, and skills-based games – all set to launch this year.

“Both InterPop and Truesy give creators and fans new ways to interact,” Mangiero said. “For example, readers of the InterPop comics will have a voice in deciding which characters get killed off and how the stories unfold. Consumers can use NFTs like keys to unlock different experiences.”