How the Blockchain Association Is Still Growing Amid the “Crypto Winter”

The trade group supporting the blockchain industry is still expanding its membership and staff even though crypto is no longer at its peak valuation. In fact, that might be part of the reason why.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on cryptocurrency in recent months, you’ve likely noticed that valuations for currencies like bitcoin or Ethereum are no longer anywhere near their peaks of about a year ago. It’s a phenomenon referred to as the “crypto winter,” a sustained decline that has seen the market lose more than $1 trillion in value from this time a year ago.

So what does that mean for the association that represents that industry? The Blockchain Association, which was reporting robust growth back in February, is still seeing new members hop on board, in part because of what it represents to its membership.

According to Executive Director Kristin Smith, the association has added 30 new members since last February (hitting more than 100 total in September), and participants continue to be more broadly engaged in the association’s mission. This, she said, is in part because they realize that having a voice in the regulatory discussion is increasingly important.

“That made more companies realize that they need to have a presence in Washington and that they need to be telling good stories about the projects that they’re working on, and the things they’re building and the innovation that’s coming, and so we’ve actually seen our membership grow quite a bit,” Smith explained.

A Voice for Policy

In many ways, the association is helping crypto pros navigate what many of its members see as the next big discussion in Washington—the regulation of the crypto space, which is thought to be one of the factors dampening the sector’s growth. Smith said that many of the association’s members, which are generally part of startups or relatively new to the space, do not have the internal resources for government regulations or policy.

“A lot of the new members we have are ones who have come to us because we’re their first contact with Washington and they don’t have the resources to hire somebody full time to fire up a lobbying firm,” she said. “And so, being a part of a trade association is not only good for participating in the collaborative process for the industry, but also a way to stay informed.”

A key role with these new members, she added, was “to help them develop their own strategies for educating lawmakers.”

As crypto has become more mainstream, lawmakers have increasingly learned to embrace it, Smith said, meaning that less introduction to basic concepts is needed than in the past.

“It’s a much more sophisticated conversation, and it has more people that are willing to be part of the education process and also the lobbying process,” she added.

Growth During a Bear Market

While policy and regulation has gotten members in the door, it is not the only factor at play for the association, which is also hoping to build a sustainable organization that can help blockchain-based companies no matter where crypto is on the market.

This, of course, means that the association needs to be well-positioned to help its growing membership base, and that it must continue to expand its offerings to members, as well as its employee count, which currently stands at 17 full-time staff. Smith said that the team may actually serve a more important role during down periods.

“We want to have a team in place that can manage, because sometimes the work has to happen during the bear markets,” she said.

While the association has had to move away from its initial strategy of having periodic direct meetings with each member company it supports, it continues to hold regular open calls to update its members as a whole, along with more direct calls on an as-needed basis. The association has also continued its popular members-only channel on encrypted chat service Signal.

In addition, the group is thinking about ways to bring its members together.

On that front, the association will hold its first in-person event November 15 and 16, a policy summit that will bring together officials from the crypto industry, as well as members of Congress. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), along with numerous House members from both parties, will be among the speakers at the event.

“We’ve seen incredible reception from our member companies in their interest in attending next month,” added Curtis Kincaid, the association’s director of communications. “I think we’ll see nearly all of our member companies represented at the summit.”

Another thing the association is looking into is the potential of standards-based work, along with its continued focus on offering a central front-facing voice to explain complex crypto issues to regulators and the public.

“Having that sort of role in being a touchpoint between the policymaking world and the crypto world I think is really important,” Smith said.

(cgtoolbox/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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