How Blockchain Builds Economic Inclusion
Rebecca Curry ’25 and Sal Ternullo ’14, MSA ’18 first heard about blockchain in 2011 and 2012, respectively; Ternullo was in his second year at Bentley and Curry was just 11 years old. Now, more than a decade later, the pair has teamed up to lead a Web3 event hosted by the Bentley Blockchain Association (BBA) and have plans to continue to explore how a decentralized Internet can help to create a more equitable ecosystem and empower users through personal ownership of information.
“I grew up with cryptocurrency and blockchain; my father told me about it after he saw it on a YouTube channel,” says Curry, who is BBA president. “My curiosity was piqued by digital currency; I got really excited when I saw Bitcoin shoot up from $3 when I was younger to $21,000. I since realized that blockchain was much more powerful than just bitcoin and its price appreciations.”
It turns out, she’s right. Blockchain technology is driving the next version of the Internet: Web3. And her Bentley network connected her to an expert — Ternullo, a blockchain venture capitalist and partner at early stage Web3 venture Warburg Serres.
“Web3 is an open Internet architecture that is powered by public blockchains,” Ternullo says. “For the first time, we have sovereignty and control of our own data and assets instead of information being controlled and owned by Instagram, Facebook or other platforms.”
Removing friction from big entities, Curry says, introduces new economic models through concepts like decentralized finance (DeFi) — peer-to-peer transactions — and tokenization. “Users can participate in decentralized networks, contribute resources and earn rewards in the form of tokens or cryptocurrencies. This can potentially create new opportunities for economic inclusion and innovation.”
Ternullo presents a simple, yet powerful example of how digital ownership can help communities facing barriers: Someone who is fleeing a dangerous situation, especially across borders, can maintain ownership over their digital assets (with a specific key code to unlock) versus carrying physical cash or gold that could be confiscated. “If you’re ‘carrying’ bitcoin and have your key code, you can go to the other side of the world and, as long as you have access to a computer, recover your entire net wealth.”
After initially reaching out to former BBA President Alex Kim ’22, MSF ’23 in fall 2022, Ternullo met with Curry to discuss plans for an on-campus Web3 event. Based on his own undergraduate and graduate experiences, he was confident that Bentley students would be prepared to address not only the power of Web3, but also its potential problems. McKinsey & Company, for example, reports challenges like poor user experience, fraud and an unsettled regulatory picture for Web3, which the BBA tackles in its 70-page research paper, The Future of Blockchain Accounting and Auditing.
“Bentley is fostering an ecosystem of Web3 practitioners, entrepreneurs and future founders with the right foundational concepts of integrity, ethics, finance and accounting positioned for the industry,” Ternullo says. “The winners will be those that embrace strong principles despite uncertainty and regulation. If you take good principles and make good decisions, you’re going to end up on the right side of the regulation in the future.”
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In just two months, Curry and Ternullo developed a two-part speaker series held in spring 2023 with industry experts. The first panel — moderated by Curry and featuring Ternullo, Nadine Chakar (CEO of Securrency) and Tim Rice (CEO and co-founder of Coin Metrics) — discussed Web3 as a critical enabler for all other technologies coming to market and the global and financial opportunities it brings. The second event focused on timeless principles of regulation and business ethics, with speakers Chuck Senatore (board member and chair of Fidelity Digital Assets), Patrick O’Kain (general partner of RW3 ventures) and Thomas Hook (chief compliance officer of Bitstamp).
Ternullo discussed how he became excited with blockchain because of its potential to open financial services to the world’s underserved and make financial transactions more efficient and cost-effective. “Those who can least afford it shouldn’t have to pay fees of 10% to send remittances to relatives. Blockchain can help.”
The more than 200 student attendees also learned how they can use Web3 to succeed in their individual careers and have a competitive edge, says Curry, who is a double major in Finance and Computer Information Systems and an Honors Program student. “We want to inspire students into the future of finance and to reimagine capital markets and reinvent payment rails so they can be leaders in their careers.”
Ternullo emphasized to students how well-positioned they are because of their education. “Everyone has the necessary competency and core business skills.” He also shared a lesson he learned early in his career: “Don’t be constrained by mental barriers. I used to believe that only the smartest people in the room could work in the crypto industry. Once I realized that the ones who are most successful are the hardest working people with the highest integrity, I was able to get to where I am today.”
After completing a Master of Science in Accounting at Bentley, Ternullo joined State Street to focus on enterprise adoption of public cloud computing, robotics process automation, blockchain and crypto/digital assets. He later co-led Crypto-asset Services for KPMG ’s innovation and advisory business; and now he is working on building Animal Ventures Tomorrow Fund, a Web3 venture fund.
“Sal has offered the BBA team unwavering support to not just help raise awareness of our work, but to also help proliferate each of our own careers,” Curry says of Ternullo’s mentorship. “He has left quite the lasting impression on me for how to lead effectively and inspire leadership in all BBA members and fellow Falcons.”
She adds, “My incredible e-board at BBA has amazing dedication, risk appetite and entrepreneurial spirit. They are not just aware of the incredible opportunity this technology brings, but they also take this opportunity by the horns and execute accordingly. The best part about BBA is being around a team that motivates and inspires me.”
A two-time cancer survivor with a personal passion for improving the healthcare industry through access and information, Curry sits on the leadership council of MIT’s AI and Web3 for Impact: Venture Studio. She also co-founded Loamy, an AI/ML-powered platform marketplace for women’s fertility created at the MIT Media Lab.
“I’m committed to building solutions that make patients feel powerful and competent around their healthcare decisions — particularly using data and AI-centric technologies like Web3, blockchain, AI and privacy tech,” Curry says. “It’s another testament to the power of blockchain and emerging technologies — providing students with opportunities across campuses and reducing barriers to create value that did not previously exist.”
As he had anticipated, Ternullo has been impressed by Bentley students’ knowledge and the contributions they’ve already made as undergraduates, including venture creation, research reports, curriculum building and speaker series and job placement pipeline building.
“When I met with Becky and the BBA e-board, I immediately recognized the group’s high potential; I also saw opportunities for the university to collaborate with students — and alumni — regarding innovative curriculum development, including courses for the FinTech [Financial Technology] major,” says Ternullo, who is building an alumni network to serve as a resource for the university and students. “That kind of collaboration could be powerful to keep pace on how fast the space moves to drive innovation into the heart of curriculum preparing students to embrace opportunities in Web3.”