Yesterday at the Blockland Solutions Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, it was announced that technology funds JumpStart, FlashStarts, and several others plan to financially support nascent blockchain startups. Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart, said his organization and six other groups want to invest $100 million, while FlashStarts is offering a $6 million pre-seed fund, according to a December 2 Cleveland.com report.
Investors are interested in startups that focus on blockchain's role in business or government solutions. Indeed, these two realms – business and government – are Cleveland's "niche," according to Bernie Moreno, one of the key organizers behind the conference.
Leach added that within the next three years, investors intend to make $200 million available to blockchain startups, among other companies, that locate in poor neighborhoods designated as Ohio's Opportunity Zones. The Opportunity Zones program, part of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, offers tax incentives to investment teams that re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds, which then invest the capital into Opportunity Zone businesses.
Ohio's funding announcement arrives against a backdrop of blockchain initiatives within the state. The Blockland Solutions Conference, which runs until tomorrow, December 4, is one part of Blockland Cleveland, a movement throughout the greater Cleveland area to cultivate an ecosystem for blockchain-based solutions.
Moreno, in addition to helping organize the conference, has been a cheerleader for the Blockland initative since its inception several months ago. Although there are various components to Blockland, such as multiple "nodes" working on projects to support the movement, Moreno also believes a gathering such as the Blockland Solutions Conference is important to attract people to the city and the state. He told ETHNews:
"The main goal is to have people … not from Cleveland say, 'Whoa, this amazing conference happened in … Cleveland?' That later becomes, 'Of course a conference like this would happen only in Cleveland!'"
Brenda Kirk, co-chair of Blockland's Talent Development node, added, "Cleveland is well suited to expand its technology ecosystem, and the success of the Blockland conference shows our dedication to remaining at the forefront of blockchain thought leadership." As a member of the movement, she looks forward to "put[ting] Cleveland on the map" to further bring blockchain talent to the city.
Moreover, Ohio's Lt. Governor-elect Jon Husted recently announced the InnovateOhio initiative to help modernize both state and local government. Though not strictly focused on blockchain, the program includes an effort to generate blockchain-based digital records for documents such as car titles, vehicle recall notices, and proofs of insurance.
With all the recent advancements, Ohio (especially Cleveland) has made tangible progress toward becoming a blockchain destination. "[People] would be shocked at what they'd find here," said Moreno.
Update (12/3/2018): This article has been updated with information from Brenda Kirk, co-chair of Blockland Cleveland's Talent Development node.