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Chicago: Crypto Capital?

Crypto Capital

FinTank, a fintech hub based in Chicago, recently hosted a carefully curated meeting of the city’s top fintech and cryptocurrency players to discuss how to make Chicago the Crypto Capital of the US – if not the world.

Sound grandiose? Not really. Chicago has always been a center for financial innovation. Derivatives, in the modern sense, started here. The city is the home of institutions such as Citadel, Northern Trust, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, DRW, Discover, and many others. There are also initiatives like the Chicago Blockchain Center, where some of us Bloqqers volunteer.

Some highlights from the event:

Policymakers need more information, community leaders need to act more

The event began with Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussing Chicago as an ideal home for technology and fintech. Citing multiple studies, Mayor Emanuel explained that Chicago is the most diversified economy in the United States, the first city in the U.S. when it came to foreign capital investment (not merely “Russians trying to buy condos” as he put it), has a wealth of academic resources in addition to a population where 39.5% hold a four year degree, and a rich financial history.

While Chicago already has all of these things, Mayor Emanuel made it clear that the brunt of the work to make Chicago the Crypto Capital fell on us, the attendees. “I would say you reach out to [Illinois state capital] Springfield, to other leaders to let them know how important this is to you,” he said, quickly adding  “You unfortunately caught me in my last 71 days of office – not that I’m counting.” However, he did say that he will express the importance and urgency of keeping Chicago a welcoming place for innovation to whomever takes office in the coming months.

When asked if he was pro-crypto or if he thought Chicago leadership was, Rahm responded, “Listen, I don’t know s*** about it, but I know it’s hot right now… You need to innovate or you’ll fall behind. You all have to make Chicago the Hub of innovation, a single policy won’t be what does it.”

I reached out to Rahm on Twitter to see if he wanted to learn more about crypto, I haven’t received a reply yet. (Those 71 days, you know…)

A city of broad shoulders to stand on 

Breaking into groups, the room grabbed large boards and markers to discuss some of the proposed initiatives to make Chicago the Crypto Capital. My group included some of the heaviest hitters in the Chicago Blockchain scene, including Rumi Morales and Colleen Sullivan. The group identified three main areas we believed would be most helpful for building up Chicago:

  • Education – Policymakers and regulators need to have greater knowledge of these technologies to make informed decisions.
  • Developing best practices – People need a starting point. For example, one could look at what the likes of the Chamber of Digital Commerce and its Token Alliance have done.
  • Reviving the fintech/crypto sandbox in the state – As the two items above coalesce, innovators need confidence that they can push the state-of-the-art and try new things with some degree of regulatory air cover.

Many of the initiatives discussed have, in some form or another, already started in our city. Greater collaboration between the already existing crypto communities in Chicago can bolster The Windy City’s already impressive list of accolades: the Crypto Capital of the World.

Dariusz R Jakubowski is Bloq’s head of community

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