Hey, Miami, New York City, and Austin:
Add Quincy, Mass., to the list of cities across the country vying to become the leading hub for blockchain and crypto.
I know what you’re thinking. Why Quincy? Aren’t most of the area’s leading crypto companies — Circle, Algorand, Flipside Crypto, Fidelity, State Street — based in Boston, just a few miles north on the Red Line?
Why, yes, they are. But Quincy City Councilor Ian Cain, who cofounded a startup incubator two years ago called QUBIC Labs, thinks he can build a blockchain ecosystem that will bring jobs and a culture of innovation to his hometown.
What’s interesting about Cain’s effort is that, politically, he doesn’t have much competition from the rest of the state. As QUBIC Labs wrote in a white paper last year, the Boston area’s blockchain sector has “largely been created without state support or a meaningful regulatory framework.”
“There was nobody really convening a space to support the ecosystem, to grow it,” Cain said.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has staunchly opposed crypto. And in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu has been silent on any related plans. (The last time Wu’s press team responded to one of my inquiries about whether the city was pursuing any crypto initiatives, the response was “not at this time.”)
Cain, on the other hand, wants the blockchain community to feel welcome in Quincy, similar to how Miami Mayor Francis Suarez lured crypto companies and venture capitalists to his city during the pandemic.
“There was a circumstantial opportunity that the mayor of Miami took full advantage of, in trying to convene the energy,” Cain said. “We’re also seizing an opportunity, because I don’t see Boston moving on this.”
Cain isn’t your typical crypto bro. He isn’t accepting his paycheck in bitcoin or using an NFT as his profile picture on social media (yet). He’s focused on ways blockchains, or distributed ledgers, can be used to transform or improve industries from finance to government.
“Blockchain just isn’t about crypto,” he said, calling it a “fundamental, disruptive technology.”
Cain has demonstrated he has some of the political savvy needed to advance the industry. He helped QUBIC Labs secure a $2 million state grant, part of a $5 million partnership that aims to create 10 to 15 blockchain startups and up to 60 jobs over the next two years.
We’ll find out next week whether he can bring the crypto energy to Quincy. When it became clear this year that Boston-based Pillar VC would no longer host the annual “Boston Blockchain Week,” Cain decided QUBIC Labs could pick up the torch.
The event will still be called Boston Blockchain Week, despite its new location, but Cain said QUBIC Labs started from scratch, so it should feel much different than in previous years.
QUBIC Labs is aiming for a South by Southwest feel by taking over public spaces in downtown Quincy. Castle Island Venture partners Matt Walsh and Nic Carter will host a live recording of their popular crypto podcast, On the Brink. There will be music and art installations.
Cain hopes the vibe will be Miami- or New York City-esque, since he’s highly aware that there is a “culture war” for blockchain talent.
As someone who attended New York City’s biggest crypto fest this summer, I will be pleasantly surprised if the rooftop cocktail hours in Quincy are anything like that.