Alexandra Prodromos | Leading Chicago’s Rise as a Blockchain Hub

Alexandra Prodromos, Chicago Blockchain Heart Government Director

alexandra lexy prodromos chicago blockchain center executive director

Alexandra Prodromos has been working diligently along with her group to construct up Chicago as the metropolis for blockchain startups and assets.

Because the Government Director of the non-profit Chicago Blockchain Heart (CBC), Alexandra works intently with each the non-public and public sectors to develop and help the blockchain neighborhood in Illinois. From internet hosting meetups and pupil developer workshops to combating towards misinformation in mainstream media, the CBC is doing all of it.

Aside from her work on the CBC, Alexandra can also be a Analysis and Market Strategist at Bloq, Inc and is incomes her Grasp’s Diploma in Info Methods at Northwestern College.

Coin Central’s Steven Buchko not too long ago had the chance to steal a couple of minutes out of certainly one of Alexandra’s jam-packed days to study extra in regards to the CBC and her soar into cryptocurrency.

The Interview

SB: How did you first become involved with blockchain know-how and cryptocurrency?

AP: It’s a bizarre story, really. I’m not a developer, though I’m at the moment doing a Masters at Northwestern in Info Methods. It consists of database administration and a few coding as effectively, however that’s not my background.

My undergrad diploma was in Political Science, and I needed to go to legislation faculty. I used to be significantly interested by applied sciences that I assumed may change or disrupt the authorized area – automated discovery, for instance. I used to be interested by how trying to find key phrases in 1000’s of pages of authorized paperwork would change how attorneys can be billed or discover precedent.

Round 2014, I heard about good contracts. My rapid thought was, “How can these be relevant to authorized contracts?” I began studying extra about them independently and ultimately found blockchain know-how as a complete. As soon as I did, I noticed that the know-how expands past the authorized area. I knew it was going to have an effect on each {industry}.

This [blockchain] is much like the foundational stage of the web – a safe technique to switch worth that can have an effect on the enterprise processes of each {industry} going ahead.

As soon as I noticed that, I grew to become infatuated. I always researched the subject, which at the moment was principally going via Reddit feeds and Twitter, and I learn a number of books on it. One of many first books I learn was the Age of Cryptocurrency by Michael Casey and Paul Vigna. Each are contributors to the Wall Road Journal, and I assumed they did an amazing job of explaining the crypto points I hadn’t been as concerned in.

On high of that, I began going to conferences and meetups, making an attempt to fulfill as many individuals as I may.

As a university commencement present, my dad and mom obtained me a ticket to the Consensus convention in New York. I heard folks like Matthew Roszak discuss, and I even met Vitalik Buterin briefly. He’s solely round a month older than me, and I couldn’t imagine he had completed all that he had at the moment.

It was at that convention that I heard the governor of Delaware current their Delaware Blockchain Initiative.

I assumed to myself, “ Why can’t Chicago be a hub for blockchain? By way of startup development, it’s a extra livable area than San Francisco or New York.”

I envisioned that we may work with the [Illinois] authorities to create much less onerous laws and regulation than what existed in New York. The New York BitLicense is notorious now.

I assumed it was an amazing alternative, so I put collectively a proposal and approached the newly created Illinois Division of Innovation and Expertise. I ended up working with them on a blockchain workgroup as the one non-government participant. With the assistance of many different businesses, we created the Illinois Blockchain Initiative (IBI).

From there, I continued to go to conferences. A few 12 months and a half in the past, I met Matthew Roszak at one of many conferences, and he introduced me onto Bloq. Since June, I’ve been closely concerned with the Chicago Blockchain Heart finishing up the third prong of the Illinois Blockchain Initiative – ecosystem growth in Chicago.

This entails creating the bodily area for meetups, highlighting particular startups, and offering academic assets. The academic assets aren’t only for people, although. They’re additionally for particular {industry} entities that wish to study extra in regards to the applied sciences.

We’re working to fight loads of the deceptive reporting on the subject. Now that Bitcoin’s been thrust way more into the mainstream, our group is extra necessary than ever.

illinois blockchain initiative

Illinois Blockchain Initiative

SB: What pushback, if any, was there with the Illinois Blockchain Initiative as the one non-government member within the group?

AP: It’s fairly superb. Once I approached them, they’d “Bringing Illinois into the Future” tech initiatives in place, and blockchain was already a bit piece of certainly one of their initiatives. It had been on their radar, however they didn’t really feel the necessity to pursue it aggressively because it was nonetheless early days. Even at this time, it’s nonetheless early days for blockchain.

I’m shocked at how ahead considering they had been as soon as we talked via it. In my thoughts, the general public sector is a pure software of blockchain. It wants transparency, and it’s a means to offer a reliable registry to constituents. As soon as we talked via that, they had been on board instantly. I didn’t obtain any pushback.

SB: You talked a couple of three-pronged method for the Illinois Blockchain Initiative. One is the ecosystem. What are the opposite two?

AP: The second is to offer non-onerous regulation inside the state of Illinois. One of many businesses concerned with the IBI is known as the IDFPR, the Illinois Division of Monetary and Skilled Regulation. They supply particular steerage highlighting their present cash transmission legal guidelines and the way these apply to Bitcoin and potential cryptocurrency companies.

Additionally they educate legislators on what the know-how is to allow them to create new laws that’s not overly restrictive however nonetheless protects constituents. Probably the most attention-grabbing half, for my part, is the pilot packages they’re doing.

They did one final 12 months with the Cook dinner County Recorder of Deeds, one of many businesses concerned with the IDF [Illinois Department of Finance] consortium. And, they’re doing a little others this 12 months as effectively.

Certainly one of them goes to be a digital ID answer that they’ll use to trace start and loss of life certificates on the general public blockchain. They’re doing one with well being care supplier registries as effectively. And, they’re additionally going to probably tokenize inexperienced power credit.

They’re taking the additional step in not solely monitoring the ecosystem and defending constituents however by additionally “consuming their very own dogfood” too. They’re seeing how this know-how may have an effect on the general public sector inside their very own businesses.

Nationwide Blockchain Neighborhood

SB: Are different states and/or cities working with Chicago and Illinois in constructing out their very own packages?

AP: Sure, Illinois has been working with Delaware a bit bit from what I’ve seen. We had been additionally not too long ago speaking to some of us in New York about probably working with them.

We’ve obtained a sister blockchain middle in DC that truly influenced how we’re structured. They’re sponsored by the Chamber of Digital Commerce, and extra so serve to teach regulators on the hill.

There’s additionally a blockchain middle in LA that we’ve been speaking to. They’re within the strategy of growing their program.

SB: One thing that appears to have impressed the blockchain neighborhood is how educated most regulators have been when speaking in regards to the know-how, particularly within the latest listening to with the SEC and CFTC.

AP: Matthew Rozsak, the founding father of the Chicago Blockchain Heart and founding father of Bloq, really participated in congressional hearings on blockchain in 2015. The distinction in how Congress is speaking about it in 2018 versus again then may be very cool.

Now, there’s the blockchain caucus in Congress and particular representatives which are all about it. It’s been attention-grabbing to see the evolution since when he spoke about it to now.

SB: What different adjustments have you ever seen within the blockchain {industry} over the previous few years?

AP: Once I first began, I might inform folks that I’m working for an organization that gives blockchain options, and I’d simply get clean stares. If they’d heard something, it was solely Bitcoin.

Now, folks can’t hear sufficient about it. I discuss with each different Uber driver about crypto. I believe I give out extra playing cards on these journeys than at occasions typically. It’s loopy – everybody began noticing it inside the final 12 months.

One other factor I’ve been noticing is the urge for food of the coed developer neighborhood. That’s been cool to observe as a result of it’s one thing that I’m actually obsessed with.

The massive downside we haven’t fairly solved but is the restricted provide of blockchain builders. I heard a statistic that Javascript, a comparatively new language, has about 9 million competent builders worldwide. Then again, for sure blockchain languages, like Solidity, it’s estimated that there are about thousand competent builders worldwide.

For all the brand new innovation that’s taking place, it’s necessary that we nonetheless keep the open supply developer neighborhood and ensure individuals are in a position to contribute.

Chicago Blockchain Heart Previous, Current, and Future

SB: Inform me extra in regards to the workshops that the Chicago Blockchain Heart hosts.

AP: That’s one of many issues we wish to do extra of in 2018.

Final 12 months, we hosted a two-day Solidity good contract boot camp. College students needed to apply to get in and move a sure competency so we may dive deep into the code. It was hosted at DePaul in partnership with the College of Illinois. Professor Andrew Miller, one of many foremost thought leaders on good contracts and Solidity, was additionally concerned. On the finish of simply two days, the scholars had been in a position to write nice good contracts in Solidity.

That boot camp was rather well obtained. We had greater than 50 college students who attended and extra that we needed to flip away. We additionally obtained lots of people contacting us afterward saying that they need they knew about it forward of time. We’re going to attempt to do related occasions this 12 months.

We additionally partnered with HyperLedger final 12 months for a two-day HyperLedger HackFest. It was hosted on the mHub, and the HyperLedger govt group got here out for help. Their group walked round to ensure folks knew methods to use the software program. We obtained loads of constructive suggestions from that occasion as effectively.

We’re trying to host related occasions in addition to spotlight particular startups within the area. We not too long ago had a few the Blockstack founders come out and provides our viewers a peek behind the scenes at their firm. That was very cool.

chicago blockchain center logo

SB: What are among the subsequent huge issues on the docket for the Chicago Blockchain Heart?

AP: We’re going to proceed internet hosting our meetups just like the Chicago Ethereum Meetup in addition to industry-specific occasions just like the Chicago Blockchain Actual Property Collective and HyperLedger meetups.

We’re additionally trying to deliver some greater voices to Chicago. We’re partnering with BTC Media to host Distributed Markets in Chicago in April. It’s the primary time they’ve ever completed it right here, and we’re actually trying ahead to it. It’s going to incorporate a hackathon, a code camp, and a convention over the weekend.

Lastly, we’re going to formalize our incubator program. We’ve been in a position to meet and get in contact with loads of the startup neighborhood in Chicago, however we wish to present extra formalized and devoted assets for them shifting ahead.

We’re working to perform all of this stuff whereas nonetheless internet hosting extra pupil developer workshops too.

SB: The place do you see the Chicago blockchain neighborhood 5 years from now?

AP: That’s a troublesome one. It’s typically arduous for me to look even a 12 months forward because the area is altering so quickly. Who would have predicted that ICOs and the token economic system can be as necessary final 12 months as they ended up being?

We’re distinctive from different blockchain facilities on the market in that we’ve obtained public sector and personal sector help as a non-profit. We’re going to proceed working via the Illinois Blockchain Initiative to help this rising neighborhood in a means that isn’t stifling. Wherever we’re 5 years from now, I wish to be sure that’s nonetheless a giant a part of the dialog.

I wish to additionally be sure that we’re persevering with to teach college students. I might like to have an even bigger program in that respect. To try this, we’re serving to certainly one of our fund companions, the Blockchain Training Community, to develop as effectively.

I might like to see Chicago be the nationwide, if not worldwide, hub for blockchain startup headquarters and blockchain academic assets. The sky’s the restrict.

SB: Anything you’d like our readers to know?

AP: It’s necessary to understand that we’re a non-profit; we’re all volunteers. We’re making an attempt to be a useful resource that’s neighborhood pushed. With that, we’re at all times on the lookout for assist and solutions. Our purpose is to be the connective tissue between all of the totally different entities that exist in Chicago to make a extra cohesive and inclusive neighborhood.

Thank You

Thanks, Alexandra. Not just for taking the time to speak with us however for additionally devoting a lot of your spare time on blockchain neighborhood help. We stay up for seeing every thing that you simply and the Chicago Blockchain Heart are going to perform in making Chicago an exemplary metropolis for blockchain innovation.

Extra Info

Chicago Blockchain Heart

Illinois Blockchain Initiative

Distributed Markets


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