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US blockchain start-ups launch Blockchain Association

A group of crypto and blockchain start-ups and investors have formed the Blockchain Association, a lobbying group that will try to amplify their influence in Capitol Hill and throughout the US, writes Jeff Engel for Xconomy (FinTech Futures‘ sister publication).

The non-profit trade association’s initial members include San Francisco-based Coinbase and its competitor, Boston-based Circle Internet Financial, operators of two of the most active digital currency exchanges. Well-known blockchain/crypto investment firms Digital Currency Group and Polychain Capital have also joined.

The Washington, DC-based group made its first hire – Kristin McKenzie Smith – director of external affairs. She previously was a legislative assistant to former Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, and she was a Washington lobbyist with Alpine Group, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In addition to lobbying lawmakers, the Blockchain Association says one of its aims is to “educate policymakers and the public on the benefits of blockchain and related technologies”.

That’s a standard goal for any lobbying group, but it could be especially crucial for the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, which is peddling complex technologies and has quickly “evolved from a cluster of hobbyists into a global industry with billions of dollars of invested capital”, as the Blockchain Association puts it.

“On the industry side, innovators face regulatory minefields,” the group says. “On the policy side, lawmakers must navigate trust and safety, security concerns, and consumer protection. Among the general public and members of the media, many people do not understand what blockchain is  – and isn’t.”

It’s not surprising that they’re banding together now to try to exert more influence on lawmakers. In May, securities regulators in states and provinces across the US and Canada announced a coordinated series of investigations into potential industry wrongdoing, including alleged unregistered securities offerings and potential scams by groups raising money online through initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Meanwhile, in July the US Securities and Exchange Commission rejected another attempt by entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss to create a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund.

More recently, on Monday (10 September 2018), the New York Department of Financial Services authorised two companies – including the Winklevoss twins’ Gemini – to each launch so-called “stablecoin” cryptocurrencies whose price is pegged to the US dollar. The idea is to offer digital currencies that avoid the wild price fluctuations that have dogged many cryptocurrencies.

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