August 17 was a big day for the Crypto Valley Association in the Swiss media.
The visit by the Swiss Economy minister Johann Schneider-Ammann to the CVA not only rated a segment on the Swiss nightly news, it was also the occasion for an in-depth, 30-minute interview with CVA President Oliver Bussmann on Swiss national radio (in German).
The wide ranging interview covered a number of topics around blockchain and the Crypto Valley.
Clear role for government
With the ministerial visit to CVA in mind, Bussmann was first asked how he saw the role of the government in supporting the CVA ecosystem.
“The government is an essential part of the ecosystem and has an important role to play in helping bring resources and know-how to our area,” Bussmann said. “When it comes to developing Crypto Valley, cooperation between government, startups, established companies and academia is key.”
The good news, he continued, is that the Swiss government has been very active in this area. In financial services, for instance, we have seen the Swiss Fintech license and regulatory sandbox, both of which make it easier for startups to experiment and innovate. But the government’s role goes beyond just financial services.
“It is also about the competition between locations,” Bussmann said. “It’s important that a given location be associated with new developments because that helps foster investments in these areas and build up know-how.” Here the government has a clear role too – though it’s important that the authorities find the right balance between consumer protection on the one hand and making it possible for new technologies to establish themselves on the other.
Bussmann said the visit of the Economy minister was also important considering the current intense interest in Crypto Valley.
“We have seen tremendous growth and momentum over the past few months in our association,” he said. “We now have 200 members and the name Crypto Valley has gained global recognition. We hope to point this out to Minister Schneider-Ammann and the Swiss government and also show them that there is even more potential here.”
The interviewer mentioned criticism that Crypto Valley is attracting lots of capital at the moment, but this has not created many jobs. Bussmann agreed, but felt that that would change.
“The Association’s clear intention is to create jobs in Switzerland,” he said. “We want to do this by continuing to attract startups and, through the cooperation between startups, academia, the government and established companies, build a sustainable ecosystem that creates employment opportunities.”
The government of Zug had made a name for itself a while ago when it became the first jurisdiction in the world where people could pay for government services in bitcoin. Recently it made headlines again with the announcement that it was becoming the first community to offer all citizens the option of getting a blockchain-based digital identity.
While the interviewer praised this for being admirably progressive, the truth is that very few people have actually used bitcoin in Zug. The interviewer also wanted to know if it made sense to have a digital ID just for one local government.
Bussmann countered that even though few had use bitcoin in Zug to date, the experiment is still much more than a PR gag. With it, the government is gaining valuable experience in this technology, which is still extremely new, and that experience will pay off in the future. The same will also surely be the case with the digital ID.
“From my long experience in the IT world, I know that there is always a learning curve,” he said. “But you need to start somewhere, and the government is definitely gaining a lot of knowhow, even if the volumes are very low right now.”