Wyoming's cryptocurrency entrepreneurs should inspire Scotland – Jim Duffy

Wyoming is developing cryptocurrency industry in a way that Scotland could emulate, writes Jim Duffy

A cowgirl watches over livestock near Cheyenne, Wyoming. But the state isn't just plains, mountains and rivers, it is also developing a cryptocurrency sector (Picture: Michael Smith/The Wyoming Eagle/AP)

What do Wyoming and Scotland have in common? Answer: they both are great places for tourism. But, what differentiates Wyoming from Scotland? Answer: Wyoming is decades ahead in terms of global ambition. Let’s explore...

Wyoming is a big chunk of land-locked land in the heart of the USA. It is rich in history, natural wonders and the Old West. It has famous National Parks, towering rugged mountain ranges, wild rivers and of course wide open plains. Tourists travel both from within America and outwith the USA to enjoy the landscape and the recreational activities on offer. The good folks of Wyoming still wear cowboy hats. At the least men do. They love their history, culture and the more relaxed way of life and living that Wyoming offers compared to the likes of New York City. Kind of feels a wee bit like Scotland when juxtaposed to the the rest of the UK. But, that is where it ends.

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Wyoming has bags of ambition. It has oodles and oodles of energy, passion and excitement for what the future could bring. It wants to punch above its weight and create new forms of “special” in this thriving state. And only this week, its world-beating plans have come to fruition. Little ol’ Wyoming is going to be the beating heart of finance and cryptocurrency in the USA as the mighty Kraken cryptocurrency exchange is opening its first bank there.

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I’ve been banging on about cryptocurrency for a while now. Cryptographic projects and protocols have the capacity and potential to completely change our lives for the better. They are not simply start-ups or businesses that offer “insane gains” as the Twitter brigade would say. They are real-life projects that have big ambitions of how humanity can move into the next stage of the internet and our day-to-day functionality. Let me give you an example.

Cardano is one of the most exciting and rigorous projects that is being built right now. In short, the team at Cardano want to create the global infrastructure for a new secure, innovative and scalable financial system. It can do away with old-style banking, currency exchanges, driving licences, passwords, voting systems, application forms and a whole lot more. Essentially your meta-data or everything about you will be stored as “you” on a blockchain, so it cannot be tampered with or altered. You want to hire a car? The car hire firm takes your ID and it has everything verified instantly and you can even pay for the car hire without credit cards etc. This technology is Star Wars on steroids. And it coming in the next decade.

So, cryptographic projects are here right now. And Wyoming knows it. The state forecast this and did something about it. A bunch of folks got the legislature, governor, banks, businesses, universities and more into a room and around a table. That was the easy bit. After that they had to re-engineer how Wyoming could change its laws and still be legal within a federal framework. Everyone had to be on board in a transparent way. Forget multi-millionaires opening banks on their own or others making sure their positions were advanced – a big problem in Scotland. It was Wyoming first and ego and power trips second. And look at it now.

The university is a global blockchain powerhouse, it has now partnered with Kraken to create a major US banking and cryptocurrency financial centre and it will bring in jobs, jobs, jobs. Not just for developers in tech. Home building, infrastructure, the whole nine yards. Do not underestimate what Wyoming has achieved and will accomplish over the next decade. Big lessons to be learned...

But can Scotland pull off something similar? I’m afraid not. Oh dear I hear you sigh. Well, the problem is Scotland is quagmired in legacy systems, legacy thinking and little fiefdoms of power struggles. In short, it is still living with a clan-like mentality. And that can never build anything global, anything that remotely enters the region of global gets picked off by suitors from other countries or dies a slow death. But don’t worry, he says sarcastically, we’ve got business gateway, Scottish Enterprise and a few new “incubators” on the way. God knows who sold this poppycock to the current Finance secretary.

Why am I telling you all of this, you may ask. Why big up Wyoming and belittle Scotland?

Well, with the right people in the room, Scotland could be a powerhouse of cryptography in the next decade too. With “jaggy-elbowed” individuals who are not afraid to get stuck in and challenge the status quo, Scotland could create a strong proposition. Not just a few companies building a few apps or punting beer or gin. There has to be a joined up “moonshot” (thanks Boris) strategy that puts the legacy organisations on the spot. Don’t tell us when Wyoming has just created something awesome. Our children, teenagers and young graduates need more and, in this economic crises, there is an opportunity to properly build for the future.

There have been too many reviews on enterprise and entrepreneurship etc – all just hot air now. But, to give you a glimpse of my thinking of what could be. Get the HIE, its university and the First Minister in a room with Charles Hoskinson from Cardano and if the will is there, Scotland could become the Wyoming of Europe in a decade.

But that will never happen as the path is already set for mediocrity.

Anyway, what do I know?

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