Wyoming’s Blockchain Bills: A Very Personal Labor of Love

Wow. Wyoming just did something very big.

Its legislature just gave the blockchain industry a welcoming home in Wyoming. I am overjoyed!

A US version of Switzerland’s “Crypto Valley” will hopefully soon spring up in Wyoming, if early indications of interest pan out. Dozens of small software companies have already formed Wyoming entities and some of these have already leased office space – 20,000 square feet and counting – even though four of our five bills haven’t even become law yet, awaiting Governor Mead’s signature.

Kudos to so many people who made it happen (a list is below), but most especially to Rep. Tyler Lindholm (pictured) for sponsoring the effort in the legislature and to the co-founders of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, Rob Jennings and David Pope. If our effort has seemed ragtag and disjointed at times, it was. David, Rob and I are volunteers.

I haven’t worked this hard or done something so meaningful in years.

OK, I confess to not being alone in shedding tears of joy as we watched votes conclude along the way from the viewers’ gallery!

Our group, the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, did not ask the State for anything. But we have delivered serious interest from serious software companies looking to move to Wyoming.

For me, this effort is very personal. Wyoming has always been home and I’ve stayed close despite living away.

And it’s also special because, 29 years ago, I was lucky to be an intern in the Wyoming Senate. What fun it was to be back! And it was a pleasure to finally meet Senator Charlie Scott, who was also in the Senate back when I was an intern in 1989 as a UW student. At the time, I was applying to Harvard for graduate school and knew that he held two Harvard degrees—but was too shy to speak to him. I confess to envy him because he was able to come back to Wyoming to ranch after graduating from Harvard. I wasn’t so lucky, because my Harvard loans amounted to more than my parents’ house in Laramie was worth, so I stayed in the big city to pay them off—but remained an active volunteer on UW boards for more than 20 years.

Speaking of Mom and Dad, do I ever wish they were alive to see this! Dad was an electrical engineering professor at UW for 40 years, and his worthy successors and their UW colleagues have been tremendous supporters of our blockchain effort. They are already teaching a blockchain class this semester. Last week we put UW blockchain students together with blockchain entrepreneurs who visited Laramie, and one job offer already materialized…many more will clearly come! UW has a huge opportunity to become a blockchain academic hub, and the industry will help it achieve this stature. A couple of big things are cooking up in this regard…stay tuned. Mom and Dad would have really loved all of this!

Hopefully the entrepreneurs who move here will grow to love Wyoming as much as I do.

Wyoming is a very exclusive club.

Will these new businesses bring in problems? Will there be culture clash? Yes, of course.

Will many of the start-ups fail? Will fraudsters come here? Yes, of course.

These are the types of problems we should expect. Silicon Valley faced the same problems during the dot com boom of the late 1990s, but things turned out pretty well for Silicon Valley. A lot more upside than downside. Yes, I expect Wyoming’s regulators to be busy prosecuting bad actors. Our State regulators will work with the Feds in Washington and with “white hat” industry participants who will assist them. We blockchainers will help. We want things to go well for Wyoming.

How will blockchain benefit Wyoming citizens? In short, it’s about revenues to the State’s coffers, more jobs, the elevation of UW’s prestige, more Wyoming kids finding jobs in-state, more revenues to Wyoming’s service providers (attorneys, accountants, etc.) and even the revitalization of downtowns that have struggled since “big box” stores moved in. Software developers love working in old buildings with big, open spaces and lots of sunlight—and Wyoming’s historic downtowns have a lot of those to offer. Entrepreneurs already snapped up one of them.

Every single new company that forms in Wyoming contributes money into the State’s general fund, reducing the tax burden on Wyomingites. We haven’t promised how many new companies will form here, or how many new jobs they will bring, because we honestly don’t know. It could be only a few, or it could be a lot. But we do know that the fiscal impact of our five blockchain bills is ZERO. No cost to taxpayers.

And perhaps Wyoming citizens will someday use a token made possible by our laws, such as a StarbucksCoin, without even realizing our State enabled it.

I’m also thrilled that a self-regulatory organization for the blockchain industry, the Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA), formed in Wyoming last Friday. It aims to be the FINRA of the token industry (FINRA self-regulates the securities industry). That’s a great demonstration of the industry’s desire to police itself. May it succeed.

And, let’s not forget that Wyoming actually made lemonade out of lemons. Wyoming had been one of the three worst states for blockchain, due to a problem with Wyoming’s money transmission law that caused wallet providers (such as Coinbase and Circle) to pull out of the State in 2015.

I ran smack dab into that problem last summer, when trying to donate appreciated bitcoin to endow a scholarship for female engineers at UW. The UW Foundation couldn’t accept the bitcoin because of that problematic law, which meant UW couldn’t liquidate the bitcoin. That problem was actually the spark for our movement.

We set out to fix that problem, then decided to aim higher…then achieved so much more!

Wyoming catapulted from the back of the pack to become the clear leader in blockchain.

I’m elated for Wyoming!

Many people deserve credit for passing the blockchain bills, including but not limited to:

  • Rob Jennings, co-founder of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, a gifted “connector” who seems to know everyone in Wyoming, and a UW pal.
  • David Pope, co-founder of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, prominent accountant and civic leader in Cheyenne and a fast friend since we met in November, along with his better half, Melissa Pope.
  • Rep. Tyler Lindholm, without whom none of this would have been possible. Especially!
  • The Wyoming House of Representatives, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • The Wyoming Senate, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Senate President Eli Bebout, without whom none of this would have been possible. Plus, he was one of my dad’s star students in electrical engineering at UW.
  • Rep. David Miller, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Rep. Jared Olsen, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Sen. Ogden Driskill, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Sen. Drew Perkins, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Sen. Tara Nethercott, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Sen. Chris Rothfuss, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Governor Matt Mead, without whom none of this would have been possible.
  • Rich Slater, who put in a lot of “sweat equity” for the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition.
  • UW President Emeritus Dick McGinity, intrepid supporter and our “closer” during legislative committee hearings, former UW President and current professor at the UW College of Business specializing in start-ups.
  • Dean Mike Piskho, intrepid supporter at UW and Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UW.
  • Dr. Jim Caldwell, intrepid supporter at UW and Head of the Computer Science Department at UW.
  • Dr. Mike Borowczak, intrepid supporter at UW and Head of Cybersecurity Education and Research Center at UW.
  • Craig Russow, intrepid supporter at UW and the man preparing the UW Foundation to be able to receive bitcoin donations.
  • Albert Forkner, Wyoming Banking Commissioner, we look forward to working with you to make this a success.
  • Ed Buchanan, Secretary of State, we look forward to working with you to make this a success.
  • Karen Wheeler, Deputy Secretary of State, we look forward to working with you to make this a success.
  • Kelly Janes, Compliance Division Director, we look forward to working with you to make this a success.
  • Gale Geringer, intrepid supporter who helped us on the ground at the legislature.
  • Erin Johnson, intrepid supporter who helped us on the ground at the legislature.
  • David Miller, intrepid supporter, former ASUW president and a UW pal who was also one of my dad’s star electrical engineering students at UW.
  • Randy Bruns, Cheyenne LEADS, intrepid supporter who helped us on the ground.
  • Dave Murry, Cheyenne native, grad of LCCC and UW and intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector who came back home from Switzerland to show support.
  • Tiemae Roquerre, Jackson resident and intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Charles Curley, Thermopolis resident and intrepid supporter from the IT sector.
  • Krista Pontius, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Brittany Kaiser, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Paul Quigley, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Garry Smith, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Alanna Gombert, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Tony Rose, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Jill Richmond, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Scott Burke, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • A Jolly, intrepid supporter from the blockchain sector.
  • Another couple dozen more entrepreneurs from the blockchain sector whose names I don’t have, and who made the trek to Cheyenne.
  • Peter Van Valkenburgh, Coin Center, for your initial draft of HB 70.
  • Robin Weisman, Coin Center, for your initial draft of HB 70.
  • Lewis Cohen, partner at Hogan Lovells, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Aaron Wright, professor at Cardozo School of Law, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Patrick Berarducci, Brooklyn Law Project & Consensys, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Matt Corva, Consensys, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Josh Klayman, Morrison & Foerster & chair of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance’s Legal Working Group, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Mark Radcliffe, partner at DLA Piper, for all of your work on HB 70.
  • Andrea Tinianow, Global Kompass, for all of your support and insights from Delaware.
  • Ben Blalock, CEO of UW Foundation and WBC advisor.
  • Dr. Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com and WBC advisor.
  • Dr. David Chicoine, Interim Dean, UW College of Business and WBC advisor.
  • Greg Dyekman, partner at Dray, Dyekman, Reed & Healey and WBC advisor.
  • Governor Jim Geringer, director of ESRI, former Wyoming governor and WBC advisor.
  • Jonathan Johnson, President of Medici Ventures and WBC advisor.
  • Toni Kopack, Manager of DAPCPA Pope & Jackson and WBC advisor.
  • Kristin Lee, intrepid supporter and WBC advisor.
  • Cameron Nazminia, former policy advisor to Governor Matt Mead, former ASUW president and WBC advisor.
  • Marian Orr, Mayor of Cheyenne, fellow UW Pi Phi and an early WBC supporter who later became conflicted out. We are so happy to help you and Cheyenne!
  • Jeff Pope, Holland & Hart, intrepid supporter and WBC advisor.
  • Isaac Sutphin, partner at Holland & Hart, intrepid supporter and WBC advisor.
  • Pat Slyne, fellow UW grad and law school classmate of Gov. Mead, who wrote a letter to Gov. Mead last Fall encouraging him to get involved in blockchain. He did!
  • Danny O’Donnell, a blockchain entrepreneur, my nephew and my +1 in Cheyenne for part of the legislative session.

…and so many others…sincere apologies for missing you!

 

About Caitlin Long

Blockchain/bitcoin enthusiast, pension settlement expert, 22-year Wall Street veteran