Been sitting on this news for a bit. One of the hardest things to sell in startup land is what Chicago is about. I have had people look at me and wonder why they should have any money on the ground here. I have had investors from the coasts tell me they just don’t get it.
Chicago is a meat and potatoes town. So are the businesses. Jennifer O’ Rourke is tasked with bringing blockchain to Illinois government. She is aggressively and proactively doing it. Yesterday, she announced that Illinois is embracing blockchain. she said, “All roads go through Chicago, all railroad, airways, boat ways, everything. You can’t get anywhere without passing through Chicago, and that does have a meaningful consequence for supply chain and applications of blockchain.”
Jennifer has put together a multi-agency partnership, no easy task if you know politics in Illinois. She also has included other governmental bodies, like the county of Cook. Then, she reached out to the business community and extended it to a public-private partnership.
The state is joining the R3 consortium. The state is going to be active in Bitcoin education with incubators, quarterly meetings, and hackathons. Currently, there are five pilot programs inside Illinois government where they are testing blockchain. Illinois Department of Finance Deputy Secretary Cab Morris said, “To make government a little leaner, more efficient, automated, but also more personalized and tailored to each specific citizen, I have come to think is the eventual opportunity that we can capture here.”
Jennifer laid out a bold future world view, “I imagine a world in seven to 10 years where I never have to go to the DMV. That is exciting. That is really, really exciting and we are not there yet. We’re not close to that yet. But the work that we’re doing is laying the foundation for that.”
What she has done is really awesome. If you are a Bitcoin developer, being in close proximity to supportive government officials who will help you can make a huge difference. Sure, we all know that a lot of this stuff can be done virtually. But, we are all human. Being able to actually talk to someone can help you truly understand. That will speed development and adoption.
Why is this important to anyone who lives in Illinois? I believe that blockchain and cryptocurrency are going to be an integral part of the future internet. Having a thriving blockchain community in a place like Chicago will create tens of thousands of jobs. That creates all kinds of ancillary opportunities for all kinds of other businesses. I remember how the 6000 traders that populated the Loop every day created all kinds of opportunities for people in related and unrelated businesses. That’s going to be created again. Illinois has a lot of fiscal problems. What Jennifer has done is a sweet shot in the arm that can help cure those problems in the future.
Congrats to Governor Bruce Rauner for putting Jennifer in a position to be able to put this all together. She really deserves a lot of credit for what she did. It was a Herculean lift, and she is just getting started.