Cuy Sheffield ’13 Puts Liberal Arts Education to Use as a Leader in Crypto

Cuy Sheffield

Reflecting on his time at Pomona, Cuy Sheffield ’13 muses that he wasn’t one of the strongest students. Nevertheless, the sociology major now serves as vice president and head of crypto at Visa and asserts that Pomona is uniquely positioned to train future leaders in cryptocurrency.

Crypto is “like the liberal arts as a career,” Sheffield says. “It’s such an interdisciplinary area. Can you think critically and analyze the world? Do you have a curiosity about the way things work?”

Taking classes such as Introduction to Sociology with Colin Beck, associate professor of sociology, taught Sheffield to examine how society works and prepared him to ask questions after graduation like, What is money? How has it evolved? What is the future of money?

A few experiences at Pomona served as inflection points in his life and career. The first was a College-funded trip to New York during his sophomore year for a student entrepreneurship conference. The conference gave him confidence to try to start a business. Along with four other Pomona students, he started a mobile app company. Sheffield says, “We didn’t know what we were doing and made every mistake possible. But we learned a ton.”

Another outcome from the conference was the creation of Pomona Ventures, a club for students interested in entrepreneurship, co-founded by Sheffield. Through the club, he met Pomona alumni working in crypto at a Silicon Valley networking event organized by the College. He met several Pomona alumni working in tech, making connections that would lead to a job at TrialPay after graduation.

In 2015, TrialPay was acquired by Visa. “Once I was at Visa, I was learning about payments during the day, and I was going to crypto meetups and learning about crypto at night and got obsessed with the space and became the crazy crypto person at Visa,” Sheffield says.

Sheffield and his team are figuring out how to take existing Visa products and apply them to crypto. They want to make it easy to buy crypto with a Visa card. The team is working with crypto exchanges like Coinbase to issue Visa cards as well as building new futuristic public blockchain initiatives around how to move money globally over these new networks. “It’s kind of a startup inside of Visa focusing on these emerging technologies,” he says.

When asked for advice on how to get involved in crypto, Sheffield is an evangelist: “Crypto is one of the most accessible industries in the world, where it basically operates on the internet with crypto Twitter and Discord. You don't need an advanced degree to be able to work in or participate in crypto; you just need a passion and curiosity. Anyone can download software that’s a wallet on your phone and your computer and with as little as one dollar can start to experiment and use some of these technologies. You don’t have to wait and hope that Goldman Sachs gives you an internship; you just have to make yourself crypto native and spend time in these online communities. And by doing that, you’ll have experience that every company is going to need.”

Sheffield recently spoke to Pomona students over Zoom at an event titled “The Future of Money” hosted by Pomona Student Union. He is eager to connect with Pomona students and alumni working in crypto and welcomes people to direct message him on Twitter.

“There’s a broader story about Pomona and crypto,” Sheffield says. “There are many amazing Pomona alums that have been building the future of crypto so I’m excited to find ways that Pomona can embrace the ecosystem and help educate students on it.”