The genesis for crypto (in its modern form) stems from one major place, Crypto Valley, the name for the small town of Zug, Switzerland. For the past three days, I’ve been with 35 other VCs, programmers, developers, and other experts discussing the land of Toblerone and blockchain. It’s been a very enlightening experience, I’ve learned a lot about the countries laws and regulations, heard stories from other entrepreneurs who have set up businesses and was yelled at for not being a dog.
Aptly named Crypto Explorers, participants from around the world descended for three days. While the majority of people were from the United States, the overwhelming feeling of the group felt very international.
Flying home now the biggest takeaways are that Switzerland makes a great home for blockchain companies. Zug has advocates pushing for greater adoption and easement of regulations and who are passionate about their cause. With three years having passed since the establishment of the Ethereum Foundation, significant maturity in the technology, legal and regulatory landscape has established precedent for the vast new scores of companies making their “home” in the lakeside Canton. Many though, simply have their namesake setup and operate in another part of Europe or overseas. The truth of the matter is that it’s very hard to build a large-scale business in Switzerland. High business costs preclude all but those with ample cash reserves to pay salaries, amenities and government taxes and fees.
The biggest barrier to entry is the visa situation caused by a combination of world class living standards, resistance to growth and an extremely limited of applications accepted yearly. In what was mind blowing for all of us, in Zug alone, only 250 new work visas are issued a year for non-EU residents. EU citizens have three months to find work, which can be difficult. Thus, one of the “largest” crypto companies we met during the trip employed a whopping 60 people.
At the end of the day, the two biggest perk of domiciling in Switzerland are reputational and their regulatory system.
First, the idea of what Switzerland embodies closely matches the ethos of blockchain technology. The country is not run by a main central government, but is rather a federation of small states called Cantons. Each canton has the right to draft up legislation to be voted on by the whole population, an exercise that takes place every 3 months. More so, voter participation rates are above 50%; as an American, this level of voter interaction is incredible. We can barely get enough people to go out in the presidential elections, let alone small state ones.
Second, deeply held principles of neutrality and the letter of the law define much of how the country operates. Long standing traditions serve as the foundation for their legal system. Every member of society is taught to hold these superior values. When translated to laws and regulations, this means that the Swiss take a principled based approach, meaning should try to stick to laws as closely as possible, but when there are new questions, as long as they trying to act according to these principles, they should be ok. This is unlike the US, where companies are now being investigated for securities violations and other issues several years after they did their ICO’s
Ultimately I came away with a better understanding of Swiss culture, life and business.
While there were many speakers who held discussions with us over the three days, a few made significant impressions on us. I think there was an agreement between the group that the best speaker was Niklas Nikolajsen, CEO of Bitcoin Suisse. During the hour that he spoke, he told the story of how his company was formed, later evolved and now retains a huge part of the ICO market business. It was a very insightful and interesting history of Crypto Valley and Bitcoin in general.
Other notable mentions must go to Anton Golub, CEO of Lykke, who had just opened a new co-working space in Zurich and had projected the Bitcoin logo onto the side of the Swiss National Bank.
— Johannes Gees (@JohannesGees) April 28, 2018
Founder of Smart Valor, Olga Feldmeier, who is going to be launching a crypto securities exchange at the end of this year, also gave a cool presentation on her upcoming project.
The main sponsor for the event was Jed Grant and his company Peer Mountain, a decentralized attestation platform (think vouching), which I will review at some point in the near future.
Lastly, I can’t forget Jeremy Epstien and his talk on blockchain MarTech (Marketing Tech).
If I can recommend on thing, it’s to go right now and sign up for the next trip. Please feel free to mention me as the person who referred you. This is a once in a lifetime crypto event. It’s cozy atmosphere and ease in which you can have discussion make it a great place to listen to others, pitch your own idea and get feedback quickly. I will 100% be going again at some point and I hope you do the same as well.