[See also “News Analysis: Feroce’s Blockchain Plan“]
While Feroce brings a broad range of experience to the race, his idea to transform RI into a center of the global blockchain economy caught my attention earlier this year during a taping of The Bartholomewtown Podcast.
Although an element of a few candidates’ platforms, including Governor Gina Raimondo, whose office cosponsored a Providence blockchain summit, Mr. Feroce made a case for blockchain technology in Rhode Island very early in the campaign season, making it one of the centerpieces of his vision for the state’s future.
Bill Bartholomew (Motif): What first drew your attention to blockchain?
Giovanni Feroce: Frankly, I was bored of the internet. I used to think, “There has to be something new coming down the pike,” and sure enough, here it is: the blockchain. It promises to have an economic and social impact as powerful as computers, computer chips, the internet, the world wide web and fiber optics, all of which revolutionized the way we live and created trillions of dollars of new wealth and millions of great new jobs across the economy.
BB: How can RI become an incubator for new technologies, and how can existing public and private RI institutions work together to create a blockchain ecosystem?
GF: RI can lead the nation, economically and technologically, by becoming the Silicon Valley or Route 128 for the blockchain. The emergence of the blockchain creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for RI, if it moves decisively and agilely, to achieve equitable prosperity and worldwide prestige.
BB: As governor, what is the first step you would take to prepare RI for the blockchain economy? Is the regulatory nature of RI suitable for developing a new tech hub within the state?
GF: One of the greatest challenges facing the industry is a lack of people who are trained to code the blockchain – mere thousands, compared to the millions of old-style software developers. Charter and robustly fund a Cryptocosm Center at URI and our other state colleges to train students to code the blockchain and to implement and manage its practical applications. These are great-paying jobs. Supply? Meet demand!
One of the key reasons why the semiconductor industry took root in Silicon Valley was because Stanford University was there. Stanford, in return, attracted and trained the high density of talented professionals required to dominate the industry.
On the regulatory side, let’s exempt utility tokens from state securities laws. Utility tokens are not securities; they are designed to be traded/exchanged for goods and services. They do not trade on traditional clearing and settlement infrastructure. Nor should we force groundbreaking blockchain technology into outdated Wall Street infrastructure.
And let’s exempt blockchain-based assets from RI money transmitter regulations. The duplicative state-by-state money transmitter regime is a key hindrance to blockchain adoption in the US. Not one blockchain exchange has been able to obtain all the necessary licenses in the US. By exempting this requirement in RI, businesses will have one less stratum of red tape to penetrate.
There are abundant other areas where we can cut red tape for startups. We will streamline state regulatory regimes to make RI a compelling destination for blockchain and other high tech startups.
While at it, exempt blockchain-based assets from state property taxes.
BB: You were way out in front on blockchain (in the governor’s race). What is your message to other candidates who are now embracing blockchain as an element of their campaign?
GF: Don’t trickle in the legislation or ideas. You must get behind the legislative package I have spent so much time on to ensure RI is the worldwide leader and hub.
There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create affluence and raise the standard of living throughout RI at modest cost and minimal risk. Let’s make RI the “Silicon Valley” of the Cryptocosm.
Toward this end, I call upon the governor and legislative leaders to move from talk to action immediately – to meet as soon as possible to draft and enact the Blockchain Center Development Act, including the four-component strategic foundation I detailed, which are: education; a welcoming business climate; government adoption of the blockchain infrastructure and creation of an Incubator/Accelerator Cryptocosm Center.
Dispersit capere rediit. (“Seize the blockchain.”)
BB: Including adult retraining, what sort of workforce can Rhode Islanders expect to experience if you are elected governor?
GF: By improving our business climate to make it more attractive, we can create the opportunity to reverse the brain drain and draw jobs from other parts of America and the world to enrich the RI economy for everyone.
If we create the most welcoming regulatory climate for the blockchain here, RI can vault to the top of the list of where entrepreneurs and investors wish to set up the future Googles, Facebooks, Microsofts, Apples and Amazons.
BB: What other technologies / industries might be born out of a blockchain economy?
GF: According to Marc Andreessen, inventor of the web browser and a top-tier venture capitalist, “Hundreds or thousands of applications and companies could get built on top.”
[See also “News Analysis: Feroce’s Blockchain Plan“]