Irene Umar is the CEO, co-founder, and Indonesia Country Manager of YGG SEA. Besides that, she has also been very active in the Web3 and P2E spaces.
What were you doing before Web3?
I started my professional career as a banker doing corporate finance. After almost seven years, I was burnt out, and so I took a year off, returned to my home country, and started exploring other things.
This was the year I started ONE Indonesia, a nonprofit focused on connecting like-minded people for the country’s educational improvement. Some of our focus was to bring books to every underprivileged village in Indonesia and enable gifted kids to participate in the Science Olympics in Jakarta. It was also the year I joined the Foundation Board of my alma mater, President University, to involve the youth and innovation in the board and management.
In 2016, I launched a fund with a predominant focus on investing in the game ecosystem. Since then, I have also served as a board member of a few game companies within the SEA region. This was also when I met Gabby Dizon, co-founder of the Web3 gaming guild Yield Guild Games, as we were looking into investing in the Philippines.
As an avid investor, I also have an interest in food, spirituality, and property. Hence, I support entrepreneurs in these fields by investing in their projects and coaching them.
How did you get into Web3?
Gabby Dizon called me one day and said he needed my help to introduce Indonesia to Axie Infinity.”
I didn’t know what Axie was at first since I wasn’t active in crypto beyond investing in BTC and ETH. So I asked Gabby to plunge me into the ecosystem where I could get my hands dirty and have an end-to-end view of the entire project. That was when I became a Scholarship Manager at YGG.
On November 1, 2021, YGG SEA was officially launched. My purpose was simple: elevating people’s lives, regardless of who they are and where they come from, through blockchain.
What was your first crypto or NFT project?
How would you explain what you do to someone outside of Web3?
I like to think of YGG SEA as a country that has its citizens (our community) and its own currency (our token, $SEA).
As a country, our goal is to improve the livelihood of our citizens, because as they prosper, earning-wise (think financial GDP) and knowledge-wise (think innovation from within), the country will prosper too.
In terms of currency, our mission is to create an economic value chain where our token is used to power the digital economy, both within our “country” and, as the industry matures, “cross-country.”
Which creator or thought leader do you enjoy learning from?
Gabby Dizon is a friend and definitely one of the thought leaders that I look up to. I am lucky to be a part of the YGG network as there are so many learning opportunities from the YGG main DAO and all the subDAOs across the world.
Outside of the YGG network, I also pay close attention to CyberKongz, Animoca Brands, and many more. There are a lot of smart people in this space wanting to make a positive impact.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Sending my first scholar — who had been disowned by his family and owned nothing but a plastic bag of clothes, and who had tried so hard to find work in the real world — to university and hearing that he finished his first semester with a CGPA of 3.5. It was the best Christmas gift I could’ve ever received.
What tech or crypto trend are you watching this year?
I am watching, very closely, the pivots made by projects, especially those in blockchain gaming and guilds. A time of crisis is always a time for innovation.
I am also looking at the new entrants from web2 gaming, both indies and established giants. They have a vast knowledge of in-game economies, and I would really love to witness blockchain tech being used to solve real problems in traditional gaming, and hopefully, decentralization will have its place in those solutions as well.
Other than gaming, I am interested in how innovation will drive crypto adoption and increase security, as well as how culture, art and social impact will make use of blockchain to solve the problems they faced in web2.
What advice would you give someone starting out in Web3?
Come in as a blank sheet of paper. Be open.
Come in with an empty glass and be extremely thirsty. Learn voraciously.
Come in grounded, centered and purposeful — so you can stay true to yourself and avoid having your decisions influenced by FOMO.
If you could do a TEDtalk on any topic, what would it be?
Play is the birthright of every human being that’s stripped away from many of us as children. This is why there are so many broken adults. The lack of play limits human expression and innovation in a very big way.
Blockchain gaming has the potential to serve as an entry point to reverse this damage.
What is the one thing you would bring if you were stuck on a deserted Island?
If I can’t bring my dog, I will bring a notebook and a pen.
POW stands for “Proof of Work.” It is a new feature article series in The Mega Maxi to highlight the savviest builders in the Web3 space.