Several of Chicago's largest enterprises have joined forces with the State of Illinois to formally launch a new blockchain center in the Windy City.
With partners that include the CME Group mercantile exchange, principal trading firm DRW and the State of Illinois, the Chicago Blockchain Center (CBC) was set up to help incubate local blockchain startups, mentor entrepreneurs and students, conduct original research and host a variety of events.
As part of the launch, the non-profit – founded by Bloq chairman and co-founder Matt Roszak – will be taking on the State of Illinois' blockchain business liaison, Jennifer O'Rourke, as its first director of public engagement.
In interview, O'Rourke told CoinDesk:
"With this partnership, the State of Illinois is directly connected to, and moreover responsible for, working with the blockchain community day to day to understand the needs of the community and meet them with bespoke programming and collaboration."
Other founding partners include fintech trade association FinTEx Chicago, the Chamber of Digital Commerce, the Blockchain Education Network and Bloq.
While DRW is not well known in the blockchain industry, its wholly owned subsidiary, Cumberland Mining, rose to prominence in 2015 when it acquired at auction 27,000 bitcoins from the US Federal Marshalls auction of Silk Road assets.
The CBC has evolved from an earlier incarnation founded in 2015, the Chicago Bitcoin Center, which was also founded by Roszak. One founding partner behind the Bitcoin Center, Bloq investor Tally Capital, has joined the new expanded operation as a strategic partner.
Other strategic partners include media startup Distributed and law firm Perkins Coie, which has a practice dedicated to serving blockchain startups and enterprises.
In addition to helping incubate startups, the public-private partnership is also intended to serve as a feeder of sorts between the region's enterprises working to integrate blockchain and local industry startups.
"Large, established companies will have the opportunity to tap into this dynamic ecosystem, which is already transforming their industries," said O'Rourke.
Shift in focus
Since the Bitcoin Center first launched two years ago, the State of Illinois has grown into a governmental leader in blockchain adoption.
Last November, the state first unveiled its blockchain policy, prompting a series of announcements including the February news that state legislator Michael Zalewski had called for the creation of a blockchain working lab. A month later, the state became the first US regulator to join the R3 blockchain consortium.
CBC founder Roszak positioned the center's transition from a focus on cryptocurrencies to blockchain more generally as crucial to the diverse set of founding partners.
"We expect the CBC to prove to be a foundational component in the identification and maturation of the local distributed ledger technology talent pipeline."
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Bloq. CME Group is an investor in DCG.
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