Check out our interview with Howard Greenberg and Ted Kowalsky of the American Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Association (ABCA). They shared the innovations going on in the U.S. capital city, gives a scorecard for regulators and Congress, and offered a strategy to connect blockchain innovators into the D.C. landscape. See → (Itunes, Google Play, Stitcher)
How Did They Step Into the Crypto Scene?
Howard got into Bitcoin in 2017 through a friend. His first purchase was on Coinbase — Bitcoin, Ether, and Litecoin. Then he started following influencers like Charlie Lee and Roger Ver (aka Bitcoin Jesus), as well as startup projects.
Ted’s interest was a progression starting in late 2016. His background is banking IT operations and cybersecurity. He’s interested in distributed ledger tech as an architecture security model which many organizations and individuals invests in to protect the data integrity.
Blockchain is a revolution to protect against security threats. The threats are more sophisticated. By 2020, there will be billions of connected devices. Smart devices in our homes, cars, and workplaces aggregate huge datasets. This explosion of the Internet of Things is getting super complex and interconnected; the many unsecured channels are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Distributed ledger technology is a great new model for that resiliency and protection of data integrity.
Is Washington, DC a Blockchain Hub? What Kinds of Projects are Happening Here?
It’s a mixed story. A lot is happening in the public sector. Ted and Howard have spoken on a few panels about smart cities, alongside MIT and consulting firms. The community is diverse but also fragmented.
The large stakeholders are behind the curve. The federal government is the largest employer and a huge consumer of services. At a recent panel, the CFO of a large government agency spoke about hiring an expensive consultant to speak at a lunch-and-learn about blockchain tech. But after the talk, people were more confused before the talk.
There are folks at the Small Business Administration and Federal Housing Administration (both government entities) who spot the many dangers of implementing blockchain. They link blockchain to Bitcoin’s nefarious activities like the dark web or tax evasion. And data would also somehow become leaked to the wrong crowd.
In DC, for every 40 blockchain jobs, there may be only one qualified applicant. Beyond education and the hype cycle, a lot of executives here, both in government and the private sector, don’t immediately recognize the benefits of blockchain beyond Bitcoin.
There are DC trade associations like ABCA that are doing a good job with education and outreach. They can help people see there’s a difference between a public and private blockchain. People need to be aware of different architecture such as Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.
Do You Think Regulators and Congress Are Doing Their Part to Support This Tech?
For regulatory agencies like the SEC and CFTC, there’s still a lot of catching up to do. There’s increasing support for a regulatory sandbox to encourage fintechs and startups to innovate new products and services in a responsible framework. As for Congress, it’s doing a reasonably good job in staying engaged with market developments by holding public hearings and receiving briefings from industry professionals and practitioners.
There appears to be interest in what blockchain can do to improve the provision of public services, but folks can’t seem to get passed the fact that Bitcoin is only one application, a single use case of the tech.
Why Have Another Blockchain Trade Association?
This is an open source revolution of a decentralized, peer to peer technology. Unlike the dotcom bubble, this is driven by individuals — technologists, miners, investors, coders, etc. DC is known for being a place of professional advocacy.
There are groups contributing to policy advocacy and legal analysis. The American Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Association focuses on being a not-for-profit association representing a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Education is a strong component. They’ll partner with local academic institutions like American University, George Washington University, and others, to offer educational modules.
ABCA has an active role with the world’s first peered review scientific journal called Frontiers (Frontiers in Blockchain). It’ll serve as an intellectual rubric for distributed ledger technology for the long term. ABCA and Frontiers share a common goal of bringing together scientifically minded researchers to help the public grasp how this tech will evolve to become a major platform across different verticals.
It’ll also play facilitator for those wanting to plug into D.C. Startups can have a seat at the table and shape how the tech evolves. Individuals and entrepreneurs can sign up to be members — not just startups and corporations.
Ted thinks the rise of any technology is rooted in a pattern of understanding and inclusive collaboration. Whether it’s object oriented programming or cryptography, they can take off once it has proven its value proposition with actual use cases. ABCA can create a community of interaction at the granular level. That groundwork can support high level policy discussions that other trade associations are engaging in.
American Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Association | Washington, DC, USA | MEMBERSHIP
Washington, DC association aiming to advance a vision for distributed technologies such as cryptocurrency and…
Interviewer: Dang Du
Social Media Intern: Yidu Wang