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After 17 years on the West Coast, working for Intel and a variety of tech start-ups on disruptive technologies like virtual reality, OTT video, discrete graphics, digital store fronts and more, I migrated back to Cleveland for my position at Folio Photonics, a local start-up in next generation optical-based random access mass storage. Actually, more than half of my employees have migrated here, too.
I didn’t believe it myself until I experienced it — the level of blockchain enthusiasm and potential that’s here is helping position Cleveland as a blockchain leader. And, the recent announcement that Ohio is the first state to allow taxpayers to pay tax bills using cryptocurrency proves my point exactly. We are way ahead of the game.
As you can see, we’ve been busy here in Cleveland. We’ve transformed into the “wild, wild west” of blockchain, if you will. It’s a bold transition for the city, but one that might not be as far-fetched as you think — blockchain powered economies are more attainable than one might imagine.
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We’re where it’s at
The Blockland Cleveland initiative is a 300-strong volunteer collaboration comprised of developers, business leaders, government representatives, entrepreneurs, philanthropic organizations and universities. We are working together to establish Cleveland as a significant technology center by being a leader in blockchain solutions. Our goal is to massively grow employment that benefits the entire Cleveland community.
Blockland Cleveland operates under a four-point umbrella mission:
- Educate: Provide for an emerging workforce and leaders in blockchain technology.
- Lead: Demonstrate innovation and real-world application of technology in the Midwest.
- Establish: Create a local ecosystem where partnerships leverage blockchain technology.
- Promote: Blockchain has incredible potential to be inclusive in serving the greater good.
By establishing a governing body of nodes, led by key individuals in Cleveland, our initiative ensures that no one company or individual will hinder its progress. Our nodes fall within these categories:
- Thought leadership
- Business applications
- Talent development
- Political environment
- Entrepreneurial environment
- Legal system
- Next gen
- Research and innovation
Laying the foundation
The city of Cleveland is rumbling up the perfect storm to solidify its presence and make blockland a reality. We still have some work to do, but the groundwork has been created. It’s all there for the taking. Soon, the big companies will be saying, “There is enough technology in the Cleveland area to build a business base here.”
We have established enough general education to stimulate the genesis of a technology ecosystem. Now, we need to educate the customer base, the big names that call Cleveland home, on how they can implement blockchain into their businesses therefore creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and stimulating talent pools.
In addition, Cleveland is one of a few regions that have been able to move forward with tangible results such as supporting headquarters for major brands like Progressive, Sherwin Williams, Key Corp, Cleveland Clinic and Eaton. In fact, we’ve already embraced cryptocurrency — the Cleveland Clinic is using digital currency for philanthropy, Case Western University is accepting it for tuition, and Downtown Cleveland businesses are using it, but we need to utilize it a lot more for it to truly flourish. A smarter, safer, healthier and more efficient city is on the way — and at the end of the day, isn’t that what blockchain can do?
So, what’s next?
Even though there’s more to do, the rebirth has begun.
Take, for example, the Blockland Solutions Conference that is being held in Cleveland on December 1-4. Nowhere else has this ever been done — Clevelanders representing every corner of the region, higher education, government, industry, philanthropy and the community, are voluntarily collaborating to get this initiative off the ground. The 4-day blockchain event features more than 130 speakers and over 1500 attendees. It’s a grassroots effort spearheaded by Blockland, a community-wide movement to establish a blockchain ecosystem in Cleveland, and put the region at the forefront of blockchain thought leadership. This effort is yet another example of the great technology evolution happening in Cleveland. It’s a testament to how the community is coming together to embrace, adopt and achieve success on large-scale projects.
We need to augment our technology and match blockchain creators with consumers for it to survive, but I have no doubt that I’m in the right place at the right time to see this happen firsthand right here in Cleveland. I belong to a company that gives back, and I want to be a part of Cleveland for many years to come — a community that truly wants to build something.
And, let’s not forget, there’s a reason why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is here. Because, let’s face it — we’re cool.
From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Unleashed blog. The opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.
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