Gabe Higgins began investigating blockchain in 2013 and was frustrated by the lack of resources available online. Unable to find an existing community of like-minded innovators in the Tampa Bay area, he built one.

Higgins’ bitcoin-focused Meetup group has since attracted 650 members and spawned several spinoff communities interested in other aspects of the technology. The evolution of this group also resulted in the creation of BlockSpaces, a blockchain technology innovation studio at Embarc Collective that serves as an educational hub and business incubator from its space.

“The ecosystem has been growing faster than I had predicted,” said Higgins, who now serves as co-founder and chief operating officer of BlockSpaces. “I’m passionate about seeing how this technology can be applied to fix problems today and develop solutions to lead us into the future.”

Indeed, blockchain is poised to revolutionize how the world does business. More than half of senior executives surveyed in 2019 by Deloitte Insights named blockchain technology a critical priority for their organization. This is a 10% increase from the previous year’s study.

A Growing Blockchain Ecosystem

Samuel Armes, president of the Florida Blockchain Business Association and blockchain director at the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office, credits the technology’s rapid growth in Florida to the state’s low-regulation, low-tax environment.

“Blockchain developers should want to be here,” Armes said. “The state is booming. It has a great ecosystem.”

Blockchain-focused interest groups, services, educational resources and technologists are popping up across The Corridor. Orlando, for example, is now home to Merging Traffic. The web-based, crowdsourcing portal for venture capital investing supports enterprises dedicated to advancing blockchain capabilities beyond cryptocurrency through the Global Blockchain Ventures fund. In Gainesville, the Florida Blockchain Think Tank serves and connects blockchain enthusiasts nationwide.

Training a Blockchain Workforce

Academic leaders are already addressing the need to train a workforce ready to support blockchain’s growing use across varied industries and technology sectors.

At the University of Central Florida, the College of Business and College of Engineering and Computer Science have jointly developed an undergraduate program in financial technology – the first of its kind in the state – which will provide students the opportunity to code their own blockchains.

The Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida takes an applied approach to blockchain technology, offering graduate courses at both introductory and technical levels. Students in the Information Systems Decision Sciences program’s Practice Center work on “real-world” projects with industry partners, such as independent research studies focused on the business applications of blockchain technology.

The University of Florida’s Blockchain Innovation in Digital Arts and Sciences course is just one of the university’s related offerings for students interested in the technology’s current and potential real-world applications. Housed in the Digital Worlds Institute, it offers a look at blockchain through the lens of arts, digital entrepreneurship and creativity.

On the Horizon

Activities by Florida lawmakers have the potential to spur even more activity locally.

Led by government and industry representatives, the Blockchain Task Force established by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May will consider “governmental reforms that bolster trust and reduce bureaucracy through verifiable open-source blockchain technology in a variety of areas, including but not limited to, medical and health records, land records, banking, tax and fee payments, smart contracts, professional accrediting and property auctions.” Part of the task force’s master plan will include an assessment of workforce needs and academic programs required to build blockchain technology expertise, and recommendations to promote innovation and economic growth by expediting expansion of the industry.

Undoubtedly, this increased focus on blockchain at the state level will have a ripple effect across our region, creating a new market for government service contracts and easing existing regulation that some believe are hindering innovation. Given the existing level of blockchain activity across The Corridor’s 23-counties, leaders from business, government and higher education are dedicated to driving Florida and the nation into a new era of the technology’s advancement and application.

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