Amy Wan

Understand that you are your own biggest critic. Work on your mental attitude, because is your greatest limiting factor.


Amy Wan is Founder & CEO of Sagewise, dispute resolution infrastructure for smart contracts. She has authored the Bloomberg Law practice guide to ICOs and Lexis Nexus’ Private Equity practice guide. Previously, she was a Partner at a boutique securities law firm and General Counsel at a real estate crowdfunding platform. Amy is also the founder and co-organizer of Legal Hackers LA, which programs around the intersection of law and technology; was named one of ten women to watch in legal technology by the American Bar Association Journal in 2014 and one of 18 millennials changing legaltech by in 2018; and was nominated as a Finalist for the Corporate Counsel of the Year Award 2015 by LA Business Journal.

Amy has also worked in international regulatory and trade policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Transportation. She holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a JD from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and a BA in Biological Sciences from the University of Southern California.

Where did the idea for Sagewise come from?

I was monitoring the crypto industry in early 2017 when ICOs (initial coin offerings) were going crazy, and began noticing in the spring of 2017 that founders were randomly losing millions from their ICOs–often due to smart contract errors and hacks. This was reminiscent of the $50M hack against the DAO (a decentralized crypto fund) in 2016–and it dawned on me that smart contracts were, in fact, not smart. They have coding errors, security vulnerabilities, and need to be able to change and adapt as situations change. Having studied the first internet revolution, I knew that blockchain would not take off unless and until transactional confidence and certainty is offered to end users, so we came up with Sagewise as a way to provide that certainty to the blockchain industry. Sagewise is a safety net for smart contracts.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is different. I try to get things done in the morning that are priorities–things that will move the company forward. The afternoon is reserved for touching base with my team and getting things done that will maintain the company. And, of course, sprinkled throughout that is HR, finance, and fundraising activities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have a fantastic and smart team that is great at recognizing issues, discussing solutions, and leaping onto execution. I suppose the trick is to hire fantastic people and take things one step at a time in executing on any initiative.

What’s one trend that excites you?

That has to be blockchain technology. Our solution is about helping the application of the technology work in the real world more smoothly by providing a dispute mechanism for blockchain smart contracts. But at a basic level I am just excited about the blockchain technology itself, its use cases, and how it may change the paradigms in which we live and collaborate.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Every morning, I make a priority list of things I want to get done. This helps me work on important things that will move the company forward, as opposed to things to just maintain the company.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Understand that you are your own biggest critic. Work on your mental attitude, because is your greatest limiting factor.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You can have it all. You can do it all. I’m a mom, an executive, a founder, an entrepreneur, a wife, and a daughter. But I have great support around me in my company and at home, and where I’m lacking support, I hire it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Invest in yourself. At the beginning of this journey, I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there and felt I needed a little push. So I hired a business coach, and that has had a huge impact.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Thought leadership. It has helped our company be seen as a leadership in the space, and gives us a certain amount of credibility, whereas by default, at the moment, most crypto and blockchain companies look like scams unless proven otherwise. Our thought leadership in the space gets us invited to speak at many conferences, and allows us a special influencer status in the space.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

This company wasn’t always building a safety net for smart contracts. Before we pivoted, we were automating the draft of real estate investment legal documents. Problem was, it was still very bespoke programming if we wanted to build out the software, and the market wasn’t justifiably large enough. When we came across the smart contract vulnerability issue, we saw a much larger potential market, a more scalable solution, and a tremendous one at that if blockchain and smart contracts take off.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would love to see someone solve the issue of telemarketers calling my cell phone. I get it from vacation companies, financial services companies, realtors, and even politicians. It happens way too often now. One could solve this through a permissions system using blockchain. Or, launch some offensive system that reports to regulators everytime a number is tagged as spam. There are actually huge fines around telemarketing, but its underenforced.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Someone I looked up to did an equity crowdfunding campaign for his company, so I threw $50 at it. From there, I was able to develop a relationship with that founder, which landed me plenty of publishing and speaking opportunities. At at the company launch party, I met Cam Kashani, who I then hired as my business coach. And the rest is history!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I love Calendly. I hate the half dozen emails that need to get exchanged to coordinate a call with someone – Calendly makes it super easy.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris. I know–its a bit trite, but this was one of the first books I read that blew my mind about breaking out of the normal 9-5. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur–only as an employee–until I read this book.

What is your favorite quote?

When you’re through changing, you’re through.

Key learnings:

  • Invest in yourself. Hire a business coach if you need to get ‘over a hump.’
  • Invest your time in businesses with large markets where you can provide a scalable solution.
  • The key to everything is hiring great people.