Blockchain Trade Organization DATA Enters The Lobbying Fray

Blockchain, News, Regulation | March 19, 2018 By:

Several companies in the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem have come together to establish the Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA), a global non-profit organization focused on lobbying on behalf of the industry within all levels of governments, corporations, and communities.

The first order of business is to kick-off a search for candidates to lead the trade organization as executive director. In addition, they will begin lobbying efforts in the U.S. and Europe in partnership with other local blockchain groups.

The steering committee of the new trade group includes:

  • Brent Cohen, Director of Marketing Communications, WAX/OPSkins
  • Alanna Gombert, Chief Revenue Officer, MetaX
  • Brittany Kaiser, Co-Founder, Bueno Capital and CryptoHQ
  • Alex Lightman, CEO, TokenCommunities Plc.
  • Jill Richmond, Senior Vice President, Sparkchain
  • Blain Rethmeier, Managing Director, Ditto PR
  • John Wise, Founder and CEO, Loci

Block Tribune talked with two steering committee members about the new organization’s plans.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: So there are a couple other trade groups out there. What gaps are you going to be trying to fill with your new organization?

ALANNA GOMBERT:  So the current trader, data is looking to fill a niche that is not covered by any other trade group right now in the crypto slash blockchain space. It is really a shoe-leather lobbying piece and the action piece. Any trade groups who we’re gonna partner with, to be very clear, are focused on things like thought leadership, think tank, product focused trader organizations like the EEA, and all of these organizations will be partners of data, but we need an organization that’s truly focused on global lobbying and global action.

BLOCK TRIBUNE:  So what are you dissatisfied about with the current organizations?

ALANNA GOMBERT: No, no. Go ahead, Jill. It’s not about being dissatisfied.

JILL RICHMOND: Yeah. No, and I wouldn’t even say that there’s no level of dissatisfaction. I would say that there’s an element of opportunity, which is most of the other trade bodies or organizations, if you think of [inaudible], you think of Chamber of Digital Commerce, I think a lot of their work is exceptional, but where we’re defining ourselves very narrowly is the work that we plan on doing on a local level. So on a state by state basis, from an advocacy perspective to a national level to working with other partners on a global level. So I think it’s, if we could simplify it, it’s advocacy in action. Any real independent research and white paper analysis that gets done, we’re working with those bodies as partners to help make sure are well received. But I think action and advocacy is really the defining piece for us.

ALANNA GOMBERT: Absolutely.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. So what are the biggest challenges you’re facing right now?

ALANNA GOMBERT: So in terms of challenges, number one is really we’re starting from scratch. Defining the industry. Defining the terms that engender the industry and create the market as a cohesive whole, and especially in the U.S., right now, the crypto community slash blockchain, those two different things there, I wanna be very clear. We don’t have any case law on the books. There are things coming through, but it’s very varied. We’re getting different opinions from government agencies on tokens, on the entire crypto market. And on the blockchain side, there really are no concrete definitions and standards for the implementation. So really we’re starting from the ground up. A, defining, and then B, taking those definitions and helping to craft things like HB 70 in Wyoming, which defines the utility token for the first time in the U.S. within the construct of a bill, and helping to educate.  

So step one, definition. Step two, educate, and step three, [inaudible 00:03:26] those two things across the states and across the federal government. And obviously, globally as well.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Does the organization have any official positions yet on anything?

ALANNA GOMBERT: We just formed, so our first project was Wyoming. And the Wyoming legislation we fully support, but that’s really our watershed moment.

JILL RICHMOND: I would say if there’s any indication of some of our positions, you could see it as a case in Wyoming.

ALANNA GOMBERT: Correct.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. How many members of the steering committee are moving to Wyoming?

ALANNA GOMBERT: I will say people who have companies in the steering committee, we are looking at opening offices in Wyoming, so my company Meta-eX is looking at office space as we speak. We’re actually in negotiations, and we’re thinking about what that looks like long term. But we are definitely thinking about opening an office, and we will be opening an office in Wyoming. I can’t speak for the other steering committee members.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. Will Cheyenne be considered the headquarters, or will D.C. be the headquarters?

ALANNA GOMBERT: We’re decentralized, so when you think about this organization, it really just goes back to, it hearkens back to the ethos of blockchain, so our offices will be all over the world. And the headquarters will be wherever the board meets more, [inaudible 00:04:48] is, so we don’t think about things in traditional sense.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. So there won’t be an official presence in Cheyenne? I understand you incorporated there, but…

ALANNA GOMBERT: There will be an office space there as well. There will be office spaces. The definition of headquarters, we are incorporated there, so if you wanna call it that, fine, but we’ll have offices in equal footing across the world.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay, what other blockchain groups are you working with?

ALANNA GOMBERT: Well, you saw the EEA and their press release. That’s a very specific one, in terms of partnership, and Jill, go ahead. You can add in.

JILL RICHMOND: Obviously, we work closely with the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition. We’re supporting the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition. Right now, we’re just putting partnerships in place, typical membership in place for other blockchain coalitions nationally, locally, and then globally. We haven’t made those announcements as of yet, but those reciprocal partnerships are being put in place right now.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: How far along are you in your search for an executive director and what does the ideal executive director look like?

ALANNA GOMBERT: We just did this exercise on Saturday in terms of our ideal candidate. I think the most, and Jill can fill this in, as well, the ideal candidate has experience within the nonprofit sector, within governments, but also has blockchain slash crypto experience. And more fundamentally from a personality perspective, a global viewpoint, and a global sensitivity to different cultures and different ways of doing business. Jill, do you wanna add?

JILL RICHMOND: I think there’s soft components. Right, so I think those are the, this is what we’re defining as must haves. I think there’s softer components to an ED. There’s the ability to corral an industry and start to create hierarchies and definitions of terms and what we’re talking about, so someone who’s incredibly articulate. Someone who’s incredibly media savvy. Someone who has deep domain expertise in the respective agencies, and lobbying experience. So I would say that’s probably a must have. That’s not a soft piece, but I’d say that the communication piece is absolutely fundamental. Like we said, we really aim to define ourselves as a unifying voice. It’s been an industry of individual projects, and so we need to help corral the industry and support the industry in its maturation.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What’s the timeframe for bringing this person on board?

JILL RICHMOND: I would say within the next month, at the very list.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Do you see this as a crucial time for blockchain and cryptocurrency? Regulators all over the world seem to be really focusing on this sector, and clamping down in many cases.

ALANNA GOMBERT: Absolutely. The market has grown to a point where it is becoming mature, and the market cap is hovering. I think right now it’s around three and 400 million globally, but it hit 700 million earlier in the year. People are sitting up to take notice on the government side because of that, and because of the attention that the crypto market and the blockchain market are attracting, and so every government, Sierra Leone even yesterday, created a voting system on the blockchain. There’s agencies all over the world where blockchain’s being used in varying, in very important implementations on the government side. Again, separating crypto out from blockchain. The crypto piece is equally as important. There’s scrutiny, as you know. There was a house hearing yesterday. We had someone from data there listening and taking notes and learning, and showing that we are a real organization. There’s European Commission hearings that we’ve been invited to, and we are now in a learning, and I’m kind of a road show, if you will. And there’s also legislation pending in the states. And all that is because this market has grown. It’s becoming mature, and people are taking notice. Jill, do you want to add?

JILL RICHMOND: No, I might say something a little bit more radical, as well, which is I think it’s a sort of Sputnik moment for the U.S., and they need to start making some clear and decisive decisions about how they want to keep and maintain innovation in a country that is leaving, and so all eyes are on how other jurisdictions are going to regulate. And so I think we’re at a major inflection point.

ALANNA GOMBERT: That’s a really important point. I wanna make sure that we captured that because the Wyoming legislation really set the tone for the crypto companies in the U.S., and myself included, because we’re looking at moving at least part of our operations overseas because there was no support within the U.S. construct. And the Wyoming bills, all five of them, gave us hope that we could actually stay in the U.S. So one of the mantras currently is really let’s stay in the U.S. Let’s not have to jump and establish offices overseas just because we have to.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What can be done, if anything, to change attitudes? It seems whenever there’s criticism of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries, it always focuses on money laundering and terrorism and all these demons that lurk in the shadows. What are you gonna be doing to educate people and sort of change that perception?

ALANNA GOMBERT: We’re gonna shine a light on the shadows. We’re gonna make the shadows go away. We have companies that are doing real business. Solving real problems. And many of them are focusing on greater good problems to help the world. So thinking about things in that construct and educating. Data’s job is to educate.

JILL RICHMOND: And I would say the other part of that, if you look at some of our buckets of roles and responsibilities, I think the second part of that bucket is working very closely with the media. So I work for a large tech PR firm. Our sole responsibility is continuing to educate the media around paying attention to innovation, and we constantly put clients out there speaking on regular outlets, tier one outlets that are talking about what they’re doing, and the innovative platforms and/or protocols that’s building, and what that means for innovation, in particular. I think that is the story. The story is not about the deep dark web, money laundering, price fluctuations and volatility, and I think they constantly get it wrong. So we have a role and responsibility to continue to tell those stories.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are the biggest challenges beyond regulation for growth in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry? For example, like the cost of electricity would probably be up there. Anything else?

ALANNA GOMBERT: Well, we’re not mining. Many of us are not actually mining tokens or coins. So the electricity problem comes in when you are actually a miner, and you have mining rig, and you’re trying to mine bitcoin or ether. So the electricity piece is a very specific part of our world. I will say that challenges include things like banking. Because there’s no clear regulations, the banks get spooked very quickly when it comes to understanding crypto. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so adamant that we do and we engage in shoe-leather lobbying and education, because we don’t want to bail out a banking system. Every time negative news comes out on crypto, the banks change their regulations.

Now, we are seeing movement. Goldman Sachs just bought Poloniex, so there is movement now on the traditional banking side where they are investing in crypto solutions and exchange solutions. So we’re seeing a shift there, but that’s really top of mind for any company that’s operating in the U.S.

BLOCK TRIBUNE: Is there anything you want to bring up that I didn’t ask you about?

JILL RICHMOND: I think you asked a really important first question, which is how we’re gonna work with all of the other trade bodies. There are others that are working in this space, and we think we’re very complementary to what they’re doing, and so I want to be very clear that we’re not trying to create silos of how we operate. We’re trying to create. Let’s bring in kind of all the houses and work as one unified force. I think that’s where we see ourselves. So I just wanna be clear about that.

ALANNA GOMBERT: Absolutely, and just to add to the final point about challenges and also our focus, we talk about the U.S. quite a bit because we started here, and we started in Wyoming, but I want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that this organization is global, and we are engaging globally. There’s more to come publicly in what we’re up to, but I do want to make sure that it’s very clear that yes, U.S. Yes, we are working very heavily on the ground in the states, and also in the federal government, but we’re also equally working overseas. That’s it for my side.