Q&A with CEO and Executive Director of Stellar Development Foundation, Denelle Dixon

Aug 18, 2022

Denelle Dixon is the CEO and Executive Director of the Stellar Development Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the growth and development of Stellar, an open-source blockchain network that aims to “connect the global financial system.” Prior to joining SDF in May 2019, Dixon was the Chief Operating Officer of Mozilla Corporation, first joining in 2012 as a leading member of the legal and business development teams. 

01. The Stellar Development Foundation’s mission is to create equitable access to a global financial system. How do you see the Techstars Payments Accelerator as being a facilitator of that mission?

Our mission at the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) to create equitable access to the global financial system may be the most exciting challenge in blockchain today. We are in a new frontier and we need strategic and savvy partners to bring this vision of access to reality. We can’t get there without initiatives that both create and exemplify equitable access, like the Payments Accelerator we’ve launched with Techstars. 

With this program, we will advise bold founders in the fintech space — founders who recognize the incredible opportunity across emerging markets, specifically Latin America. We are empowering operators who are already using or are interested in engaging blockchain to scale their technology. Payments may not be the most talked about crypto use case. Still, it is one that can bring this technology to the masses and we see the TechStars Payments Accelerator as an influential, meaningful enabler in this endeavor. This is the best, and most logical, next step for the SDF to achieve our mission.

02. What technologies are you most optimistic and excited about from a financial inclusion perspective? 

Financial innovation has opened the door to endless possibilities that are ready to be explored everywhere. From digital identity and infrastructure to DeFi and cross-border remittances, frankly, there are too many to choose from! But given the topic of our accelerator, I have to start with payments. Payment services, through more traditional financial players who are embracing financial innovation like MoneyGram, are the vehicles for us to be able to bring the most important benefits of crypto to the very people that blockchain technology was designed to include. 

 But innovations like this can’t happen in a vacuum so I am also really excited about what can emerge on the financial literacy front. Designing solutions to propagate literacy within the payments ecosystem will shape our future. Children, low-income families, college students, really anyone benefits from the opportunity here and that’s the education we need to prioritize. 

But it doesn’t start with consumers –  financial literacy is an important skill that founders need to have under their belt. As a business leader, when it comes to the ever-growing world of finance and financial technology, I'm still learning. Innovation makes that journey continuous. We need to harness innovation in a way that makes it so teaching finance doesn’t have to be a challenge.

03. What advice do you have for fintech founders looking to build on blockchain technology? 

Ha! How much time do we have? To start: read, research, and react. Be inspired by what other companies in your industry or field of discipline are doing to take advantage of distributed ledger tech. Next, investigate various protocols and blockchains within the fintech ecosystem. Explore their differences and how you might enable your business to build on top of blockchain. 

Does it provide more value to your clients? Will it blaze a new path of inclusion for your customer base to grow? And of course, ensure it makes financial sense for your organization's sustainability. There are a lot of shiny objects in the blockchain industry; don’t chase every waterfall. With research and compassion into your community's needs, you will find the right blockchain solution that can be truly transformational for your business.

04. You recently announced a large partnership with MoneyGram, one of the Techstars Payments corporate partners. How do you see this partnership transforming the blockchain ecosystem? 

Stellar is designed to connect all different types of financial infrastructure, in a way that makes transferring value seamless no matter where you are in the world. We are ready to exemplify our confidence and the network’s ability to do this by engaging enterprise-ready, real-world solutions at scale. MoneyGram rolled out a brand-new, first-of-its-kind global crypto-to-cash service that is available today. Users of Stellar-integrated wallets may walk into certain MoneyGram locations today and put cash in or take cash out of the digital economy. This unlocks access to financial services at scale. 

If Stellar can support the unbanked people of the world at over 400,000 locations globally, what else is possible? For the world to realize frictionless capabilities, this is exactly the type of service we need to be offering – not one that is for the crypto savvy, but one that brings the average person into crypto, and ultimately takes us mainstream.

Join us for an Ask Me Anything on August 24th to learn more about the Techstars Payments powered by Stellar and MoneyGram program. Register here!