Governor Jared Polis Praises Colorado’s Cryptocurrency Scene
When Governor Jared Polis took the stage Feb. 18 at ETHDenver, the world’s oldest cryptocurrency conference, he was preaching to the choir.
“This is, without a doubt, the most fun thing I’ve had to do this month,” Polis said, before hitting Republicans and Democrats. Republicans tell people not to trust government and trust big business, he suggested, while Democrats tell people not to trust big business and trust government.
“Most people don’t trust big business or government,” Polis added. “And that’s what blockchain allows us to solve. We trust each other.”
ETHDenver is short for Ethereum Denver, a nod to the open-source Ethereum blockchain. Since this area of technology can be confusing for newcomers, here’s a crash course:
Blockchain is “a distributed database that is shared between nodes in a computer network,” according to Investopedia. “The innovation with a blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of a data record and generates trust without the need for a trusted third party.”
The most popular use of revolutionary blockchain technology comes in the form of cryptocurrencies, which are virtual currencies that are not controlled by a centralized authority, unlike hard currencies, such as the US dollar.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether, the cryptocurrency used on Ethereum, have become extremely popular and have turned into lucrative investments for some people, who have benefited from large increases in currency values. But others have lost a lot of money investing in cryptocurrencies: it’s a high-risk, high-reward area.
Standing in front of a packed house at Sports Castle, home of ETHDenver, Polis easily won over the crowd. “I like this guy,” one listener told his friend. Polis, who made his big fortune in technology, spoke his language, the language of crypto and blockchain.
The governor reminded the public that when he served in the US Congress, he founded the Blockchain Caucus, which now has 37 members. Polis also recalled the time an unnamed US senator wrote a letter explaining why cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, should be banned because criminal organizations can use them without law enforcement. order only detect transactions.
“I basically took his letter and almost word for word ‘ban cash,'” Polis said to applause, noting that criminal organizations can just as easily use cash to fund their operations. .
Polis spent the rest of his time on stage citing the work his administration has done in the area of crypto. “Our state was the very first state to hire a chief blockchain architect,” Polis said of the hiring of Thaddeus Batt in 2019. “We see [blockchain] as an essential part of Colorado’s entire innovation ecosystem. »
That same year, Polis enacted the Digital Token Law in Colorado, which some crypto enthusiasts see as a major factor in the explosion of the industry in Colorado.
Polis, a libertarian-minded Democrat, did not address the negative aspects of cryptocurrency, including the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, or the detrimental environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining. . Instead, his speech was a celebration of crypto technology which some proponents believe will replace physical currencies.
The multi-day conference at Sports Castle and other Denver venues, such as the nearby Art Hotel and Temple, drew thousands of in-person attendees, as well as a much larger online audience. But the event had humble origins.
Ten years ago, crypto enthusiasts in Denver started hosting get-togethers where they could network and talk about blockchain. In 2017, these meetings were transformed into the ETHDenver conference, which is now world-renowned; this year’s edition features a massive NFT art gallery created by 126 artists from 15 countries.
Polis and other state officials added to the action at the ETHDenver conference with the Colorado Jam Incubator, which has tech geeks tackling a range of issues. For the past few days, a team has been working on developing a blockchain technology program to track livestock branding in Colorado’s agriculture industry. Yes, the real hot metal branding of a cow’s butt.
“When a cow wanders off and gets stolen, you want to know who it is,” Polis explained.
The big announcement on stage from Polis was that Colorado would become the first state to accept cryptocurrencies for the payment of state taxes and fees.
“We won’t hold any assets in this form, but we will have a layer that allows payment in these forms and then conversion into the units that we use, which is dollars,” Polis said, predicting the program will go live this summer. While it only has a marginal impact on early tax-paying Coloradoans, the move is “symbolically important to show that we are a crypto-forward state,” Polis argued.
Polis also expressed his desire to see Colorado become the “Delaware of co-ops.” Delaware has a reputation as a haven for US corporations that can register in that state without having a physical footprint there. Companies working in cryptocurrency and blockchain often structure themselves with employee and community ownership in mind – one reason Colorado, which wants to position itself as a crypto leader, would strive to become the mecca of cooperatives, the governor mentioned.
And others picked up on this theme after Polis finished his speech. In a later panel, Kent Barton, a founder of ETHDenver, predicted that “Colorado was going to be the Silicon Valley of the Web3”, verifying the name of a new version of the World Wide Web that would be decentralized through the use of blockchain technology.
“Honestly, I see this event in three to five years being held at Mile High Stadium. I’m not being facetious or kidding around,” Barton promised. “Five years from now, we’re going to be doing this in sports arenas in a non-hypey, non-asshole way.”
ETHDenver runs through Sunday, February 20; there is an in-person waitlist but the live stream is open. Learn more here.