(TNS) — PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island officials made their pitch Thursday to the blockchain industry that the Ocean State is the place to start and grow businesses based on the emerging computer technology that enabled the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
About 100 representatives of blockchain companies gathered for an all-day conference at the Omni Providence Hotel and heard from a lineup of current and former government officials: Gov. Gina M. Raimondo; Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor; House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello; Liz Tanner, director of the Department of Business Regulation; former House Speaker John Harwood; and former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., now a downtown real estate investor.
Their message was consistent: We want the blockchain industry to come to Rhode Island and we're willing to work with the industry to make that happen.
"We don't shy away from being first, being early, being innovative," said Raimondo. "We are absolutely open for business, and we want to work with you guys."
"We will work with you to ensure that the regulation and the legislation is the right fit," said Pryor.
"We want to make sure we're not New York or Washington," said Tanner, promising to listen to industry leaders before developing regulations that affect blockchain companies.
"Rhode Island is on the move," said Mattiello. "For too long, we were very much stagnant, but now we're really on the move."
"I'm just excited about the blockchain industry coming here to Rhode Island," said Harwood.
Paolino was quite frank: "I'm a landlord, and I want to rent space to you."
The rolling out of the red carpet was not lost on two executives from Alchemist, a New York investment company that helped organize the conference.
"I've never in my life experienced it," said Jeff Pulver, vice chairman of the company and one of the founders of Vonage, a company that pioneered internet telephone service. "I'm a fan of the State of Rhode Island for being so bold and open to business. You no longer need to apologize for being a small state because you're big in vision."
Steven Nerayoff, Alchemist's founder and chief executive, directed his comments toward Raimondo. "She's really forward-thinking for a politician," he said. "I love what she said about Rhode Island." He was especially intrigued by the state's proximity to Boston and New York and its pipeline of students in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, from kindergarten students learning computer science to college students pursuing tech degrees at Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and other colleges in the state.
"We've been looking for a home," Nerayoff said, adding that he would be open to moving his New York City-based company to Rhode Island.
"It's important that there's a safe home for blockchain companies," he said, alluding to the industry's need for a location with a favorable regulatory system, which has been a daunting goal for an industry few legislators or regulators fully understand.
But company leaders like Nerayoff and Pulver see nearly limitless possibilities for blockchain technology.
"The first trillionaire will come from the blockchain revolution," said Pulver. "We have a chance to change the world."
Anthony Scaramucci, who was reported by the conference organizers as coming to the event, did not appear.
Blockchain is simply a tool, and all the buzz surrounding it is not because of what it is, but what can be done with it.
It is a record structure for storing information in a computer database. It is made up of individual blocks of information which are linked to the block that came before it, forming a chain.
A blockchain is publicly shared, and information in it can only be altered with the consensus of everyone who is part of it, making the information highly secure from being changed by hackers.
Because of this transparency and tamper resistance, blockchain can be trusted to store financial data and relied on to conduct transactions in which parties exchange things of value, including money. This eliminates the need for a trusted third party, such as a bank, to verify that one party has a certain amount of money and that it is being transferred to the other.
©2018 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.