It was rumbling in the beginning of February in Swiss Zug. The Crypto Valley Association (CVA) was undergoing a major reorganization. On Thursday, Jan. 31, the General Assembly of the Association elected former Swisscom manager Daniel Haudenschild as president of the CVA and the successor to Oliver Bussmann.
The former CVA’s president, Oliver Bussmann, had announced last November — together with the members Vasily Suvorov, René Hüsler and Nicolas Schobinger — not to run for reelection at the General Assembly. The former SAP and UBS manager, who runs a consulting firm in Zug, had been controversial, according to media reports. According to finews.ch, he and other members had been accused of using the organization for personal business. Haudenschild, the new president of the CVA, was — until the end of January — the CEO of the blockchain advisory unit of Swiss state-owned telecommunications company Swisscom and left the company unexpectedly. The reasons for leaving have not been announced by Swisscom.
Other board members were Kevin Lally, Kamales Lardi, Mattia Rattaggi and Martin Berweger. Immediately after the end of the meeting on Jan. 31, two board members — Maria Gomez and Jenna Zenk — also resigned. Both had been elected as female representatives to the board in September. In a Twitter post, Zenk, the head of technology at Zug blockhouse startup Melonport, cited the reason for her departure in a short video from the General Assembly: One member sharply criticized the one-sided composition of the board of directors with lawyers, investors and advisers.
Cointelegraph spoke with Daniel Haudenschild about his new position, conflicts between the management staff and the developer community in the Crypto Valley and the position of Switzerland, especially Zug, as a global blockchain hub.
CT: The four founding members of the CVA — Oliver Bussmann, René Hüsler, Nicolas Schobinger and Vasily Suvorov — have announced their withdrawal from the organization quite surprisingly. How do you judge this decision?
DH: The CVA is a vital component for Switzerland, and one of the strongest ecosystems in blockchain globally. It also grew at an advanced pace without pause. So some of the basic inventories and systems that other associations have are and were not present in the CVA. The result is that the mechanics of how the CVA works, how it handles expansion, how it does membership recruitment all were inappropriately addressed. The previous board fell under some criticism and felt it best to hand over for a clean start.
CT: Two board members resigned, saying that there were too many lawyers and consultants on the board. What do you think?
DH: The work that we need to do now is basic. We need to address the toolset of the CVA with a proper association management system. We need to empower the regional chapters, we need to restructure the sponsorship packages, and offer clarity and transparency association financials. The board has therefore decided that we will not be electing the additional two members at this time. By making some of the tools fit for purpose we take a big step in handling some of the basic administrative needs of the association. Once the CVA is running smoothly, we will open the process to bring on two new board members. These will be determined by the needs of the association and will most likely be from the startup community.
CT: According to the netzwoche.ch platform, the CVA had conflicts between the management staff and the developer community. Could you please explain what exactly were the misunderstandings?
DH: The perception was that the inquiries into the CVA were being handed off to a select few individuals, and that most members did not have access to the business-generating benefits of membership. Although this may have been the case in a few occurrences, the frustration was felt by everyone, and it was mostly the fault of inappropriate systems and resources to help deal with the flood of inquiries. We have taken concrete steps to solve this by investing in a new tool system. We have also eliminated strategic corporate sponsorships. These have proven to divide the valley.
Companies who purchased them felt they were not receiving value, and other smaller members felt that they could not compete with the larger corporates for attention. We now have only two levels of association sponsorship, and two prices: 5,000 and 10,000 [Swiss francs]. All other sponsorship is aimed at events. This levels the playing field.
CT: Which solutions for conflict resolution do you suggest?
DH: In addition to the above, we have an ethics officer and two delegates. This is a strong team and should be able to handle conflicts and other issues that arise now or in the future.
CT: What projects do you want to tackle as the new president of the CVA?
DH: We need to bring the capital back into the valley. The persistent bear market in BTC prices has driven away a lot of the nonsense that came with the ICO hype. However, the VC and Angel funds have also partially left. This is unfortunate, as we have some brilliant young teams and founders here. It is an absolute buyer’s market.
The next Google and Amazon are already out there. We need to help them get access to capital and the other ecosystem components that they need to start successfully.
CT: What challenges is the CVA currently facing?
DH: We are understaffed and looking for talent. As a not-for-profit entity this will presumably be the case in perpetuity.
CT: In which direction is the Swiss blockchain industry developing, especially in the Crypto Valley?
DH: There has been a flash in the pan regarding the ICO hype. This has brought a lot of unserious players. The persisted bear market has driven most of these away again. Quietly and continuously serious development in the blockchain space has gone on unabated. We are seeing more registrations for blockchain applications that are not cryptocurrency based, we have seen significant investment by corporates and individuals for education, and we have seen major investment by banks and hedge funds in digital asset storage. So, we see continued development of security tokens, asset-backed tokens and stablecoins as a natural extension of this.
CT: Where are the biggest hurdles?
DH: The learning curve for most enterprises is still steep, and it still lies ahead. For consumer adoption, although we are seeing massive advances in consumer technologies for digital asset management (for example, the Samsung smart phone with a built-in crypto wallet), we still need to make the whole experience much more user friendly. The high street is ready for the change. They will quickly adapt and drop the 3 percent credit card fees they currently pay off their margin.
CT: What government action is necessary to promote blockchain technology in the Crypto Valley?
DH: We need to have clear laws that support the type of asset custody and trading that accompany the transformation of all asset classes into the digital space.
CT: IBM, PwC, UBS and also Swisscom — many large companies today have a blockchain department. How do you foresee the risk of Crypto Valley startups falling by the wayside?
The startup industry moves at a very fast pace. Blockchain moves even faster.
DH: Things true at first light are disproved by noon, and forgotten about in the evening. In large corporations, everything costs a million and takes a year. To be successful in blockchain, it has to cost a few thousand and take a week. Most of those companies you mentioned were around in the World Wide Web bubble as well. You didn’t see the Amazon and Googles emerge from them.
CT: Where is Switzerland really in the blockchain area? Is the Crypto Valley the central location of the world or just one among many?
DH: The world has taken a shift to the east recently. It was this way a few hundred years ago as well. As the Asian giants bring about wealth parity, and you have millions of people emerging out of poverty, the shift will become stronger. If you were to redraw the maps today, you might look for Greenwich Mean Time to be located in Istanbul. America and the Americas will find themselves more isolated as Eurasia plans for its own financial and military independence. The Chinese Silk Road is more than an infrastructure play. It is a way of thinking and a philosophy.
So, these trends will continue. In all of this change and instability, the world will look to a financial center from which it can draw stability. It will also look for a tool set that works without third-party interference. With Switzerland and blockchain, the world has both. I would therefore venture to say that Switzerland and the CVA will continue to be a strong and prominent ecosystem for blockchain adoption.
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