The crypto community in Austin was buzzing.
Hundreds of investors, legislators, professionals and enthusiasts packed the halls of the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center at the University of Texas on Nov. 17-18 for the Texas Blockchain Summit. For two days, there were discussions on everything from bitcoin mining to cryptocurrency regulations to blockchain innovations. But one thing was on everyone’s minds: the spectacular collapse earlier this month of major crypto exchange FTX and its billionaire CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who was once the industry’s face in Washington and a Democratic megadonor who gave $1 million to Beto O’Rourke.
So when Lee Bratcher, president of nonprofit trade association Texas Blockchain Council, took the stage to open the summit on Thursday, he was quick to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
“The obstacles we face as an industry have just expanded significantly as a result of FTX’s incompetence and potentially fraudulent activity,” he said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Other community members who spoke to The Texas Tribune echoed the sentiment. For them, FTX’s implosion has been a huge setback for the industry, especially one that just experienced a market meltdown following the fall of another high-profile crypto venture in May. But while these events have burned and likely turned away many retail investors, the members say they will continue investing in the space because of their belief in the technology and philosophy behind crypto and blockchain. And Texas politicians attending the conference also remain bullish on an industry that the state has strongly courted.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who is a Bitcoin investor and a leading advocate for crypto, also reaffirmed his unwavering enthusiasm for the industry during his event at the summit on Friday. “I want Texas to be an oasis for Bitcoin and crypto,” he said.
Later on the same day, a bipartisan panel of state legislators — including Sens. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, and Royce West, D-Dallas, as well as Reps. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, and John H. Bucy III, D-Austin — similarly expressed their support for strengthening crypto’s presence in Texas. FTX’s bankruptcy, they said, should be viewed more as a lesson rather than a reason for doing away with the industry.
“Any conversation I’ve had in response to FTX, it’s been what do we do to make sure we’re not like them,” Bucy said. “It’s how do we have commonsense policies to protect people without stopping progress.” Bucy is vice chair to the executive committee of the Texas House’s Innovation & Technology Caucus. Capriglione is the committee chair.
“This is the oil boom of this generation,” Bucy added.
In Texas’ upcoming legislative session, Bratcher said the Texas Blockchain Council will be talking with its legislative partners to see if they want to enact stronger consumer protections. Meanwhile, ATX DAO members are soldiering on with their current work by looking for state legislators to champion a bill that would legalize decentralized autonomous organizations — entities without a central authority that depend on blockchain-based contracts that self-execute when preset conditions are met.
I wonder if Beto got that contribution in actual money or one of FTX’s shitcoins. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Let’s just say I’m not convinced by Rep. Bucy or his colleagues and leave it at that. As for decentralized autonomous organizations, I don’t have a kneejerk reaction based on the five seconds of reading I’ve done so far. I strongly suspect that those things are coming whether we like it or not. I also strongly suspect that whatever the right kind of laws are to govern them, we’re not going to get them in the first attempt. The lawyers who will be working in that space are going to get a lot of business in the near future. Beyond all that, we’ll see if anyone’s enthusiasm for this stuff dims at all when the next crypto failure occurs. Oh, and to Democratic candidates in Texas, please do have some standards for the currency in which your contributions are received. And be very careful about where you store anything that isn’t a US dollar.