Neo community members were part of a Colorado contingency of blockchain builders and entrepreneurs who were recently in Washington, D.C. to talk with Colorado’s elected legislators about building in blockchain. The trip was organized and chaperoned by Coinbase and its nonprofit advocacy group Stand With Crypto. COZ CEO Tyler Adams and NNT’s Dylan Grabowski represented Neo on the visit to Capitol Hill to discuss their work in the Neo ecosystem and across Colorado.

The trip was part of a series of Founders Fly-Ins that Stand With Crypto has facilitated since September, bringing innovators, entrepreneurs, and developers from across the country to speak with legislators. This most recent fly-in brought in builders from Colorado and Michigan, with each group meeting with their respective elected officials.

Colorado’s advocates, shown in the photo from left to right, included NNT’s Grabowski, COZ’s Adams, SporkDAO co-founder Hannah Oreskovich, Launch Legal founder Yev Muchnik, OpenCivics co-founder Benjamin Life, ETH Denver steward (and lead for the Colorado initiative) Taylor Kendal, and GeoWeb co-founder Graven Prest.

The Purpose

The Founders Fly-Ins are aimed at helping educate and inform elected officials on the strengths and opportunities of the companies building in blockchain and cryptocurrency. At the meetings, the Colorado advocates explained how Web3 creates jobs and boosts local economies. For example, ETH Denver brought in an estimated US $70 million in economic activity during the two-week developer festival.

The visit was also part of an ongoing grassroots-focused lobbying effort to connect business-owning constituents with members of Congress. This most recent lobbying push is associated with two bills that will have a major role in shaping the future of the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry in the United States.

The Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act (aka FIT-21) is a bill to define when a cryptocurrency is a security or a commodity and establish clear guidelines for agencies that regulate digital assets by classification. The second bill, called Clarity for Payment Stablecoins Act, proposes a framework for regulating stablecoins.

Grabowski was particularly interested in these conversations, as he’s seen the downside of the U.S. falling behind other parts of the world in adopting regulations around blockchain and cryptocurrency. “I’ve had many conversations on the Smart Economy Podcast about regulations,” he said. “It should not be shocking that ambiguous digital asset legislation and regulation have deterred Web3 projects from building on U.S. soil.”

Coinbase’s policy representatives were also part of the group to help guide the day and lobby on behalf of American Web3 companies. Coinbase president and COO Emilie Choi and Head of US Policy Kara Calvert joined several meetings to champion the two bills moving through Congress.

The Conversations

Broadly, the topics included the basics of blockchain infrastructure and the ethos of why the builders opt to develop in this nascent and innovative field. Overall, the themes centered around how legislation impacts national security, the U.S. job market, consumer protection for crypto users, and local and national economic liveliness.

The Colorado contingency spoke with a bipartisan group of members and staff of the Senate and House of Representatives, including:

Generally, Colorado’s Web3 advocates spoke to the extensive impacts that open-source technology might have on public goods and forthcoming technologies.

Speaking with the legislative staff of Representative DeGette

For example, OpenCivics’ co-founder Benjamin Life leverages blockchain technology to enhance builders’ ability to develop applications for civic utilities and public goods. The platform is a portal for builders to apply for grants distributed via a quadratic funding method. Life pointed out that OpenCivics distributed $35,000 to various projects in its most recent grant funding round.

GeoWeb’s Graven Prest is preparing for the next wave of technology to pair goggle headsets with augmented and virtual reality. Company leaders are seeking to build an open-source, accessible infrastructure that can interact with this physical technology. The team’s mission is to ensure the decentralization of these codebases and abstract them away from larger corporations with a monopoly of resources to dominate this market.

A prevalent topic in many conversations was the U.S. regulatory ambiguity that’s currently driving founders offshore. Yev Muchnik of Launch Legal spoke about her experience facilitating the establishment of approximately 500 Web3 businesses since 2016. She noted that it has become increasingly difficult to help blockchain-oriented enterprises establish a domain in the U.S. This is only currently possible through a select set of corporate guidelines, such as incorporating a business as a cooperative.

The Neo Ecosystem

Several aspects of the Neo ecosystem were integral for discussions with Colorado’s policymakers.

NNT is a Neo Council member and earns GAS for helping secure the Neo blockchain network. Since 2021, the NNT team has distributed thousands of dollars in grants and other funds for ecosystem growth. As an incorporated entity in the U.S., NNT also pays state and federal taxes. Potentially poor phrasing in a bill could push companies like this offshore if they are unable to comply with unattainable regulatory standards.

The DENVER WALLS mural festival was highlighted for leveraging blockchain technology as a public good. The event, comprising 17 murals throughout Denver’s River North neighborhood, attracted approximately 158,000 visitors during the two-week festival. Each mural has a bronze plaque embedded with ITEM Systems non-fungible item technology. Mobile devices can interact with the plaques via QR scan or NFC tap to learn more about the artist, connect with them on social media, and view a map showing the mural locations.

Topo Designs embedded with ITEM Systems NFI technology

ITEM Systems bags were on hand, and COZ CEO Tyler Adams demonstrated the non-forgeable bags in real time. Adams showcased handbags embedded with NFI technology that leverages an onchain explorer to verify ownership and provenance. After the demonstration, the bags were distributed to Coinbase and the other Colorado founders.

The Outcome

Ultimately, the meetings with Colorado’s Congressional members led to curiosity about the industry. The members and their staff were keen to learn how blockchain and cryptocurrency impact the issues they represent on behalf of their constituents.

Colorado advocates and Coinbase Policy team with Representative Pettersen (center)

SporkDAO co-founder Hannah Oreskovich said, “Most Colorado representatives were receptive to meeting with us, regardless of party. Innovation – and thereby crypto – continues to be a bipartisan issue for now. And that’s rare. So to see the sides really communicating with each other – and us – on our industry is refreshing.”

Looking forward, the NNT and COZ teams will continue to engage with local Colorado legislators to educate and collaborate. On Dec. 11, many of those who were in Washington, D.C. met with Rep. Pettersen and Caraveo’s district directors in Denver. The purpose of the meeting was for the builders to share more about their work in Colorado, learn where the Congressional representatives stand on issues, and discuss areas of overlap.

Grabowski is cautiously optimistic about how things could take shape after establishing some momentum with legislators. He explained his optimism, stating, “If members of our industry continue meeting with policymakers, then I believe we can be a voice for creating sensible legislation that can help foster another generation of great web-based companies here in the U.S.”