drawer logo

Comprehensive Series of Blockchain Events On-Tap For Boston Blockchain Association in 2024

In this podcast, recorded on February 16th, 2024, Blockchain Journal editor-in-chief David Berlind interviews Boston Blockchain Association (BBA) Chairman Doug Mehne during a special event at the downtown Boston campus of Suffolk University. Mehne discusses the BBA's plans for 2024, highlighting its focus on institutional adoption, regulatory clarity, and educational initiatives.

The conversation delves into the BBA's upcoming events, including a March 11, 2024, panel discussion featuring Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Hester Peirce from representatives from major financial institutions like Fidelity and NASDAQ. Mehne emphasizes the importance of collaboration between industry players and regulators to establish responsible frameworks for blockchain and digital asset adoption. Additionally, he touches upon the challenges of navigating regulatory ambiguity and the BBA's role in advocating for clarity and fostering community within the blockchain industry.

Throughout the discussion, David and Mehne explore the motivations behind the Boston Blockchain Association's efforts, emphasizing the organization's commitment to blockchain education, advocacy, and community-building. They discuss a local academic environment that's highly unique to Boston, Massachusetts, with prominent universities like Harvard and MIT actively engaging in blockchain research and education.




By David Berlind

Published:March 2, 2024

clock icon

11 min read

In this Story



Audio-Only Podcast

Full-text transcript of David Berlind's Interview with Doug Mehne, Chairman, Boston Blockchain Association

David Berlind: Today is February 16th, 2024. I'm David Berlind. This is the Blockchain Journal podcast. I'm coming to you from a special Boston Blockchain Association event that's being held at Suffolk University in Boston, and standing with me is Doug Mehne.

He's one of the directors of the Boston Blockchain Association, one of the organizers of this event – and all of the events. And, Doug, the last time I spoke to you, we had a chance to just talk about what was going on and wrapping up 2023.

Doug Mehne: Yeah.

Berlind: But now you guys have a full agenda for 2024. So, first of all, thanks for joining me on the podcast.

Mehne: Yeah, thank you, David. I appreciate it.

Berlind: Thanks for coming back.

Mehne: Yup.

Berlind: And I just wanted to check in with you to find out what exactly is going to go on with the Boston Blockchain Association for 2024.

So, for those people who are either in the New England area or are coming to it, maybe there's an opportunity for them to come in and one of your great events.

Mehne: Yeah, thank you, David. We've got a full docket plan this year, super excited. We'll continue with the institutional adoption series. March 11th is our first for 2024. We have Commissioner Hester Peirce coming, Fidelity, Bitwise, [and] NASDAQ talking about their recent approval with exchange-traded products, and then we'll do a second panel on responsible oversight and institutional oversight of digital asset transactions. Just showing what's really going on in the industry.

Berlind: Well, Hester Peirce, that's a pretty good catch there. From the CFTC if I'm not mistaken, right?

Mehne: [We're] super excited. She's fantastic. She's well-balanced. She wants to engage in industry, and we can't wait to have her.

Berlind: And so, what are you hoping for when she comes and speaks here? Like, what is the objective? Because there's a lot of concern over jurisdiction between the SEC and the CFTC. What kind of questions are you hoping she's going to answer in a way that assures people and the public that we're actually going to move forward with blockchain and crypto? Because, right now, things are kind of stuck when we think about the conversation in Washington, DC.

Mehne: It's a great question. We started this series, and we talked about this in December, but we started this series to do two things. We wanted to demonstrate to the industry, the regulators, and the lawmakers that there are people in firms out there that want to do this in the right and compliant way. And, we also wanted to show the inside perspectives of the ecosystem around the adoption of blockchains and digital assets from an institutional perspective. So part of having her come to Boston is to see exactly that, but also the chance to ask her some direct questions about, "What is it going to take?" Why are the court systems right now dictating what gets approved and what doesn't get approved? And, is there a way for industry – the responsible end of industry – to collaborate with the lawmakers and the regulators to come up with a different framework and a different path?

Berlind: Yeah, when I think about the government, I think about four different parties. I actually only thought about three, but now I'm thinking about four based on what you just said.

Mehne: Yeah.

Berlind: You've got the courts; they have to weigh in on things. You've got the CFTC. They've got their own view. You've got the SEC. They've got their own view. So those are the regulators.

Mehne: Yeah.

Berlind: And then, you've got the lawmakers. And, they all seem to be pretty much out of lockstep with each other, and that seems to be one of the biggest concerns for companies that want to innovate with blockchain.

Mehne: There is certainly a disconnect. You could add the OCC (Office of The Comptroller of The Currency) to your list of federal regulators as well. And then, you have the network of state regulators. What we continue to try to do from a BBA perspective is [to] advocate and represent these firms that are trying to do this the right way and open up the dialogue and communications with these regulators and lawmakers to show them that there are groups that really want to come up with the responsible framework, so they know what the rules of the road are.

Berlind: So you're going to have Hester here, obviously an opportunity to influence her thinking, and you're going to send her back to Washington, DC. When she goes back, what's the message you're going to send her back with?

Mehne: Just what we're talking about, that there are firms that want to collaborate, they want to be able to come up with clear guidelines, and they're very happy to commit resources, time, and money to help create those frameworks.

Berlind: Oh, so that's important. That's a piece of it, that there are companies that are willing to contribute some resources to break the log jam. I mean, right now, you know, I don't know why things are so jammed up, but that's a big commitment. If companies are like, "Hey, look, we want to innovate, and we're willing to put our money where our mouth is. We're going to... If you need resources, we're here for you."

Mehne: Well, that that's the hope. So, we'll see. This is going to be an iterative process for sure. But, as we started this conversation – she's very balanced, she understands the industry, [is] lightning-smart about what industry is doing, and we're hoping just to be a voice in that.

Berlind: Yeah. You said that you're hoping she'll go back to Washington, DC knowing that organizations want to comply. They want a framework. They want regulatory clarity...

Mehne: That's right.

Berlind: Is what they want? Like right now, it's not about whether or not there is or there isn't a law. It's just about the lack of clarity. And so, it's very difficult to set up shop, not knowing where things are going to land six months from now or twelve months from now. So, don't you think she knows that already? Isn't she hearing that message from other influencers like the Boston Blockchain Association?

Mehne: I think she certainly understands it, and and she's out in industry meeting with all kinds of other groups, private companies... you know, trade associations, and non-profits like the BBA. But we want to continue to just be that consistent voice, and hopefully get a seat at the table where we can help to contribute.

Berlind: Okay, so a seat at the table. You mentioned NASDAQ, that got my attention, because NASDAQ has kind of swung in a couple different directions when it comes to the blockchain business. They were setting up some sort of... I think, ability to, you know, institutional custodian service or something like that.

Mehne: Yeah. Yeah.

Berlind: But then they backed off on that. So what's going on with the NASDAQ?

Mehne: NASDAQ has listed a couple of the exchange-traded products that were just approved. So, the BTC spot exchange-traded products. NASDAQ did those listings so that's why we've invited them for March 11th.

Berlind: Okay, so they're going to be speaking as well?

Mehne: On the first panel, yep, with the asset managers.

Berlind: Okay, what's coming after the March 11th date? I mean, we've got a whole year ahead of us here.

Mehne: We have a couple of other surprises coming related to the institutional adoption. And then, we have some new series. Today was the kickoff to the intersection of universities, university blockchain clubs, and companies [University & Corporate Blockchain Series] so we had a great session today. There will be three more this year. Another new series we're doing we just kicked off last week. We call them "Product and Market Workshops." So AJ Debole, who is a board member of the BBA, kicked off the first session on spot exchange-traded products, and that was a full hour of, "This is what they are, this is why they're differentiated, this is why it's a big deal for the industry." She'll continue to do those throughout the year. Those are pure market and product education sessions. We'll do another virtual series on non-financial services-related use cases of blockchain and digital assets.

Berlind: My favorite.

Mehne: That'll kick off on March 6th. So we're really excited about that. That's all about digital identity, and we'll probably do eight of those this year. And then, we're kicking off another series focused on, I'm calling it, "Insights and Innovations with US and Massachusetts Lawmakers," where we will have lawmakers come to Boston and help to expose them to what these innovations and use cases really look like.

Berlind: Why is the Boston Blockchain Association doing all that? Why do you guys exist? That's a lot of work that you guys are doing, and if I'm not mistaken, it's kind of a volunteer effort.

Mehne: It is.

Berlind: So like, what's going on here? Where... Like how is it that you're able to do all of these events and all of these, you know, educational seminars and so on and and still do your day job.

Mehne: Yeah, it's challenging at times. This isn't... The BBA is a non-profit. This is a volunteer army, very committed and passionate about doing this the right way, and people are engaged. We have great sponsors which allow us to put these events together.

Berlind: Are those local businesses here in Boston?

Mehne: It's a mix. You know, we talk about leveraging the ecosystem of Boston and what makes that ecosystem unique, but then, we add to it companies from New England and organizations in the United States and even globally. We've had European regulators participate in our events. So we're just trying to... You know, the BBA is all about education, advocacy, and building out that community and network.

Berlind: But why are you doing it? Like, what's the end game here? Why are you building it? What motivated some group of people to form the BBA? What was the... What was the problem that needed to be addressed, and what's the outcome that you seek?

Mehne: We just celebrated our five-year anniversary of the BBA, and the BBA [was] initially started by technologists and people that believed in the promise of blockchain and related technologies, [and] digital assets. And over time, we've just continued to build on that. The last couple of years, and going into 2024 for sure, is to show real-life use cases, [and] to show what these ecosystems are...

Berlind: But what's in it for you? What's in it for the BBA?

Mehne: The BBA gets to be right in the center of what's going on. We get to build out that community, which is most important to us.

Berlind: So, it's fun.

Mehne: It's super fun. And the last area that I'll highlight for you for this year is we're going to continue on an event that we started in '23 around blockchain and digital asset innovations in healthcare and life sciences and biotech and pharma. And we're planning a two-day event in September. So it's taking the same approach but extending those technologies to industries that are very unique to Boston and the Massachusetts ecosystem, but in an analogous way to what we've been doing with financial services.

Berlind: You know, you mentioned this very first kickoff thing with Suffolk University, but I think Boston also has this very unique academic environment. You've got Harvard; they have their own blockchain conference. You've got MIT. I mean, it really is extraordinary what's going on across all of the different, you know, colleges and universities here in Boston. They're all... They all have courses going, you know. I interviewed Ken Mooney earlier.

Mehne: Yeah.

Berlind: So, you know, they're teaching classes in this technology, which, by the way, is still waiting for Washington.

Mehne: I know. It's so fun to be a part of, though, and you asked why we do it. I got... Ken invited me to go to this class. I've had eight or so of his students follow up with me on LinkedIn, and they're bouncing ideas off of me.

So, that's fun. And why do we do it? The energy we had today with six universities and six university blockchain clubs...

Berlind: Yeah.

Mehne: And five amazing companies. You know, they're super excited to meet each other and open up doors and network. That's why we do it.

Berlind: Yeah, that's right. I was sitting when there was some food going around. I was sitting with multiple students from different universities, Boston University, Northeastern, [and] Harvard. So it's really cool to see that happening. Well, Doug, I wish you the best of luck. I mean, it's great to see things taking off with the Boston Blockchain Association. This could probably be your biggest year ever. So, congratulations on the success so far. And I am hoping...

Mehne: Yeah.

Berlind: ...that I'm going to come to the March 11th event. I am hoping that I'll get a chance to interview Hester and put her on the Blockchain Journal podcast.

Mehne: Well, we'll see what we can do. I'm super excited [that] she's coming, and let's see what we can do to help.

Berlind: I appreciate that. Thanks very much.

You've been listening to the Blockchain Journal podcast. My guest has been Doug Mehne he is one of the... a member of the Board of Directors for the Boston Blockchain Association. And so, as you heard, there's going to be a lot of different events throughout 2024. We're Where can people find the Boston Blockchain Association?

Menhe: Come to the Boston Blockchain Association['s] new website; there's a newsletter you can sign up for, and come to LinkedIn and look at the BBA LinkedIn site where we list all of our events.

Berlind: And what's the BBA website? What is the...

Menhe: bostonblockchainassociation.com

Berlind: Perfect. Okay. Thanks very much for joining us. If you want to see more videos like this one, just go to the Blockchain Journal channel on YouTube, or if you want to listen to the audio, just subscribe to our podcast on either Spotify, Apple Podcasts, [or] YouTube Music – we're on all the different podcast services. And if, for some reason, you need the full-text transcript of this interview, you'll be able to find it on blockchainjournal.com.

For Blockchain Journal, I'm David Berlind. Thanks for joining us.

footer logo

© 2024 Blockchain Journal