By Tomicah Tillemann and Chris Lehane
Earlier this year, we invited a group of web3 founders to Washington for a series of high-level engagements with policymakers. These discussions, part of what we call Founders Days, have spanned meetings with Senators, Members of Congress, the White House, executive agencies, and even foreign embassies. The timing isn’t coincidental.
Web3 founders are currently facing the most dynamic policy environment in the history of the space. Legislative and regulatory developments are having an almost weekly impact on the calculus around web3 projects. Compounding this challenge, it’s often prohibitively time and resource intensive for early stage founders to build out world class policy operations of their own. Structuring high-impact founder discussions with policymakers is one way we’re responding to this challenge, so policymakers can hear directly from the builders themselves.
Historically, Washington's understanding of tech innovations only reaches critical mass when policymakers start using the products. There are some structural limitations preventing policymakers from engaging in the same way with web3. For example, due to well-intentioned but misguided government rules, certain regulators are banned from owning any digital assets. This means they don’t get to interact with the technology they’re responsible for regulating. (Imagine how air travel might be different if employees of the FAA were banned from using commercial aviation.) As a result, the state of innovation in web3 remains far ahead of most policymakers’ practical experience with the tech. Direct engagement with voices at the leading edge of web3 provides an antidote to some of these challenges, and we follow up on our discussions in DC by hosting regular conversations with founders whenever top officials are visiting their cities.
It’s critical to ensure that those designing the future of the internet have a voice in the governance of web3. As we’ve helped technologists build bridges with policymakers we’ve seen some positive results. The issue has migrated from being primarily a focus for law enforcement agencies into a subject for serious legislation. It’s also transitioned from being pre-partisan to truly bipartisan. We’ve watched critics emerge as champions for constructive legislation, and many officials have recognized that web3 is actually a solution for policy problems rather than a policy problem itself.
We’ve seen enough to be confident that honest engagement between web3 builders and policymakers can produce real breakthroughs. But we have also seen enough to know that we need many, many more such interactions.
In Washington, we talked with national security leaders about the importance of web3 to long-term U.S. competitiveness, White House and executive branch officials who are crafting regulation, and lawmakers writing the statutes that will govern web3 for the next generation. Across those conversations, it was clear that web3 founders are the best advocates for why we need a better, decentralized internet. They can show, not just tell, how web3 projects are unlocking access to opportunity and creating alternatives to broken legacy systems. Increasingly, policymakers understand that they need the help, especially when we can offer them clear language and concrete use cases.
Realizing the potential of web3 in this environment will spur technologists to help develop new legal code in addition to software code. Founders Days are just one example of how we’re working hard to make that happen.