Ethereum startup ConsenSys is actively exploring a partnership with the African nation of Mauritius that could create a so-called "Ethereum Island," a hub for blockchain technology innovators that would seek to branch out into Africa, Asia and beyond.
Joseph Lubin, founder, and a team of other top executives from ConsenSys – the New York-based decentralized application builder – toured the island July 5–7 to meet with the nation's Board of Investment, the Bank of Mauritius and other private and public sector authorities.
Mauritius, located 700 miles east of Madagascar, has established itself as an offshore financial center and is actively looking to do same with regard to blockchain and related technologies. Late last year, it began the process of establishing a regulatory sandbox license in an effort to attract blockchain innovators.
Speaking to local press following the meetings, Lubin remarked that he and his team were impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm for the technology exhibited by local officials.
"We expected to encounter significant enthusiasm… but we were overwhelmed with the excitement that we felt in every single meeting. If Mauritius puts together a concerted effort to be a world leader, it will be."
James Duchenne, the Mauritius Board of Investment's US representative, who helped to organize the tour, added that there has been strong interest in the regulatory sandbox license from the blockchain community since its announcement.
So, why is ConsenSys, a name-brand and fast-growing blockchain solutions company so keen to potentially set up shop on a small island on the other side of the world?
The key reason, Lubin explained, is that he and his team have discovered that smaller nations have the tools and nimbleness needed to adapt and embrace new technologies at a more rapid clip than larger jurisdictions.
"We have noted around the world that blockchain technology, especially ethereum, is catching on and driving incredible business growth," Lubin said.
"But where we're seeing extreme traction is in smaller jurisdictions that are more homogeneous in their focus and in their intent, and where there's a strong top-down drive from government to either leapfrog technologies or take advantage of this powerful technology."
In ConsenSys's estimation, Mauritius meets all of these criteria and has the potential to quickly turn into a home base for blockchain companies seeking to branch out around the world.
"It's clear that… there's real buy-in to the vision of turning Mauritius into a blockchain technology hub," he said. "We believe that the vision we’ve seen demonstrated here will enable this nation to be in the forefront of this change wave in how information technology systems are built."
Human capital investment
Should Consensys decide to partner with Mauritius, the investment it would bring to the island nation would be more in the area of human than physical capital.
The company said that its value proposition to the island would be in establishing foundational elements of a blockchain ecosystem – such as know your customer rules, digital identity and title registries, and then helping to build a talent pool of developers, entrepreneurs, executives and regulators to build applications and companies within that ecosystem.
A Mauritius-based ConsenSys Academy, similar to the one launched in Dubai in May, was floated as a possible option for helping to build up the local talent base.
"If discussions continue at the pace they have the past few days, I could easily see us running another ConsenSys Academy program in Mauritius," said Jeremy Millar, chief of staff for ConsenSys.
No timetable for a final deal was provided, but both sides expressed strong interest in continuing and advancing the conversation.
Mauritius harbor image via Shutterstock