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NEO’s new USA office, NEO Global Development (NGD) Seattle, officially launched in February 2019, with ex-Microsoft executives John deVadoss and Peng Huang leading development and platform strategy respectively.

While laying the foundations for NGD Seattle, deVadoss began fostering relationships with city, state, and federal government entities, as well as corporate communities in the region. This led to NEO joining the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) Cascadia Blockchain Council, becoming a founding member of its Steering Committee.

WTIA and the Cascadia Blockchain Council

The WTIA was established in 1984 and is “an influential co-op of 1,100 tech companies large and small” that seeks to establish partnerships with education and government leaders. In a conversation with NEO News Today, deVadoss said: “The WTIA has been around for many, many years and has very strong role in the Seattle area, in terms of technology adoption and standardizations… [The WTIA] is a very big supporter of the startup ecosystem in terms of enabling and providing services for early-stage startups.”

Within the organization, the Cascadia Blockchain Council seeks to represent the broader blockchain community. The advocacy group was establish in March 2019 and does not restrict itself to a small geographic area; its membership extends beyond Seattle, throughout Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Members on the Blockchain Council aren’t limited to blockchain entities, but also include companies like Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Amazon, along with institutions like the City of Seattle and the University of Washington.

Amongst the members based in Washington, deVadoss iterated: “There is a sense of urgency to support, engage, and educate to create a strong, supportive policy. In places like Colorado and Wyoming, there’s a lot of momentum [for blockchain legislation.]” To this end, the Blockchain Council has been engaging policymakers, including the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, who is a supporter of blockchain technology.

Building relationships

Participating on the Cascadia Blockchain Council isn’t deVadoss’ first foray into the realm of policy and regulatory activities. The head of NGD Seattle has served as a chair on the Planning Commission for the City of Bellevue for the past five and a half years. Therefore, serving as a member on the WTIA Blockchain Council seemed to be a natural fit.

NEO’s involvement with the Cascadia Blockchain Council highlights the regional political and corporate integration efforts that aim to influence sensible policy in regards to blockchain technology. The positive relationships being nurtured between the blockchain community and lawmakers can be exhibited by Dr. Joseph Williams, the Governor of Washington’s Industry Sector Lead, delivering a presentation on a regulator’s perspective on blockchain at NEO DevCon 2019.

In a conversation with NEO News Today, deVadoss said of Dr. Williams: “He is a visionary leader, a pioneer of tech adoption, and was influential in helping NGD select Seattle to locate and establish their presence. He continues to be a friend and strong supporter.”

Additionally, both Williams and deVadoss serve on the WTIA Cascadia Blockchain Council Steering Committee, which manages the course of operations for the multi-state entity. deVadoss went on to say: “Being on the Blockchain Council sends a very clear message in terms of NEO’s position in this [region]. Certainly, we will use that to not only support the policy creation but also ensure that NEO has a strong leadership role in doing so.”

Early successes

With regards to the Cascadia Blockchain Council’s efforts, deVadoss was quick to point out: “If anything, we’ve had a very strong and very positive perception, both in terms of the policymakers as well as the commercial, the corporate community in the Seattle area.” Some of that positive perception may be evident in the recent passing of SB 5638, “an act recognizing the validity of distributed ledger technology [DLT].”

SB 5638, informally referred to as the “blockchain bill” was passed on April 26th by the Governor of Washington. According to deVadoss, the Cascadia Blockchain Council was instrumental in supporting the bill, which makes DLT-based solutions legally valid in the State of Washington. deVadoss stated he was “very much part of the effort in the very beginning; from the early stages in terms of influencing the language, as well as the policy statements.”

When inquired if deVadoss’ role on the Cascadia Blockchain Council was a political act to benefit the perception of NEO, he responded by saying that is not the case. “It’s less about advancing NEO’s goals. It’s more about advancing the goals of mainstreaming the token economy.”

Next steps for NGD Seattle and Cascadia

deVadoss noted that NEO currently has good standing within Seattle: “There is a very strong recognition of NEO as a top-tier blockchain platform. This is evident both in terms of support, but also in terms of hiring. We had a tremendous response of people reaching out to [NGD Seattle] with respect to job opportunities and other ways to participate in the NEO ecosystem.”

Looking forward, the second NGD office seeks to be actively engaged in welcoming other large players into the Cascadia Blockchain Council, both in the technology sector and blockchain space. Further, the council hopes to announce partnerships with “large organizations” in the near future.

deVadoss also highlighted how NEO’s involvement with the Cascadia Blockchain Council may help build relationships not only in the US, but in Canada as well. Toronto has an active blockchain community, and NGD Seattle hopes to engage that region in addition to current efforts.

Lastly, NGD Seattle plans to host community-based events for both NEO and the broader blockchain developer community. deVadoss noted that some events are slated to take place at the Microsoft campus, with announcements expected soon.

Creating a lasting impact

Before concluding the conversation with NEO News Today, deVadoss reflected on his experience working with the Cascadia Blockchain Council thus far, and its potential to have a positive influence deep into the future:

“For me, it’s been a very energizing experience, to engage with my colleagues across the community to lay the foundation. Because, what [the Council is] doing here, we’ll see the fruits [of labor] in the coming years… We better do a good job and set the right foundation, because in doing so [the Council’s efforts] could influence the North West to be a center of [blockchain] gravity.”

“There is a lot of work to be done, this is just the beginning.”

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the WITA’s founding year as1984, which was previously incorrectly reported as 2014.