Jeremy Gardner is the cofounder and Executive Director of the College Cryptocurrency Network - an international non-profit dedicated to blockchain education, innovation, and development that has taken root at MIT and has since then grew into a global network.
The CCN was established to help nascent, burgeoning, and not-yet existing college organizations build a presence on their respective campuses, receive administrative recognition and funding, and help students connect with similar college groups. Gardner also runs a small angel investing and consulting firm, Ausum Ventures.
Cointelegraph had the chance to speak with Jeremy about his success and future plans with the CCN as well as the importance of Bitcoin education and support for young people wanting to get into the space.
Cointelegraph: Can you tell us about how the last seven months have gone developing CCN?
Jeremy Gardner: The last seven months have led me to coin (no pun intended) the term “Blockchain Time”, as time spent in the Bitcoin space seems to defy the laws of spacetime. The past half year has felt like an incredibly fast half-decade.
However, the experience has been nothing short of remarkable. We launched in March of this year and had just the University of Michigan, MIT, and Stanford officially within our network. We also found, on social media and in the news, about a half-dozen other “Bitcoin Clubs” around the world that we were attempting to onboard. Fast forward to September, and we now have over one hundred chapters on six continents.
The folks from Skyhook even said they would give us a BTM to wrap our logo with and send down to Antarctica! There is not an officially recognized school Bitcoin club in the world not part of the College Cryptocurrency Network. We also have dozens of academics and school administrators within our network with whom we collaborate and connect to one another.
Often, I am asked how the College Cryptocurrency Network has managed to grow so exponentially in such a short period of time. The most truthful explanation is that we started this organization at the right time, connected to the right people, and provided a straightforward framework for passionate young people to start “cryptocurrency clubs” on their respective campuses.
All of the puzzle pieces have fallen into place. Daniel, my cofounder, and I, in addition to all of our amazing students, have merely given this distributed network the structure and guidance it needs to flourish.
CT: When introducing someone to Bitcoin — or at least trying to dispel misinformation — do you find college students more receptive to the technology than older people? What about people of the same age who are not college students?
JG: Without a doubt. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 26 have been found to be the most psychologically permeable age demographic. It is a time when humans are leaving the nest and forming their own views of the world, but before those views have fully taken shape. Anybody who has tried to explain Facebook to their grandparents knows how difficult it can be to convey such a foreign concept to older individuals whose view of the world is so rooted in the past.
It’s the same with Bitcoin. The older folks are, the harder it becomes to pry them free from their understanding of what money, and trust, can be. Youth of our generation, however, have had their worldview shaped by endless war, massive financial improprieties by banks “too big to fail”, and a resulting economic recession that affected the lives of each and every one of us. So to young people, Bitcoin makes a lot more sense.
Regarding non-enrolled young people, I must quote Matt Roszak, of Tally Capital, who perceptively toasted the CCN, at TNABC Chicago, for “creating the next generation of drop-outs;” myself, and several of last year’s club heads, included. Beyond the drop-outs, however, it simply depends on who you are talking about. If a kid is not the academically-inclined type, with no interest in world events or economics, they probably are not going to be particularly receptive to Bitcoin (with certain exceptions, of course).
However, if a young person wants to see tangible change in our current financial and governmental system, or just wants a degree of financial privacy and/or freedom, then Bitcoin will make sense to them, regardless of their school enrollment status.
CT: What exciting projects/startups have come from within your network so far?
JG: This fall, our chapters are hosting or co-hosting nearly two dozen cryptocurrency conferences and hackathons around the globe. That is incredibly exciting and, with virtually all of the events being free, they will remove the barrier to entry for any young person curious about Bitcoin but not entirely sure what it is or how to get involved. Our first big event, however, will be Coins in the Kingdom (not free, unfortunately) at Disneyworld during the first week of October! Everyone we speak to is thrilled for that.
Furthermore, our MIT chapter just received approval from the Institutional Review Board, which will allow our Bitcoin drop there to be treated as a human experiment, valid for academic research. Partially as a result of the MIT drop, we are spearheading the education initiative for the Dominica Bit Drop, pulling together the resources and organizing folks on the ground to inform the people of the small island nation about Bitcoin and how it can benefit them.
It has also been amazing to see some of the startups coming out of the CCN. There is a Bitcoin exchange being developed by one of our former Stanford club head and another already being run by our Ohio State club head, Jad Mubaslat, called BitQuick.
In Kenya, a mobile payment processor and wallet dubbed Bitsoko, which has already been implemented in multiple countries, was developed by our heads at Kenyatta University. One of the projects I left school for is a super-neat point-of-sale terminal for both credit card and Bitcoin that I have developed with our former Pomona College club head. But the list goes on! We plan to feature all these awesome companies soon on collegecrypto.org.
CT: What about getting the universities themselves to accept Bitcoin payments, at least as donations? What challenges do you face when trying to have that conversation?
JG: This was a more formidable challenge than we imagined. One of the first major efforts Daniel and I made after forming the CCN was to get the University of Michigan to be the first major university to accept Bitcoin donations. It was also the first (and last) failure we’ve experienced!
We were able to get what seemed like all of the right administrators, top dogs from the Marketing and Development departments in a room, and we got them incredibly excited about accepting bitcoin. Nic Cary, CEO of Blockchain.info, who made the first-ever Bitcoin donation to a university to his alma mater, even offered to speak with the necessary authorities.
Encouragingly, the admins told us they would need a couple of weeks to clear the initiative with the Treasury and Legal departments. However, we never heard back. Somewhere along the bureaucratic disaster that is your standard university administration, the endeavor was roadblocked. They replied cryptically to our follow-up inquiries, but we eventually relented, given the success we were having elsewhere with the CCN.
In fact, we have been thrilled with the reception we have had at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, where our club there was able to get their school to accept Bitcoin donations, and at Mercy College in New York, where we are working with the administration to create the first true cryptocurrency college in the United States.
I have also had a wonderful dialogue with the Provost of Notre Dame University. That school is creating a fact-finding committee composed of students, administrators, and academics, to see how blockchain technologies can be integrated into the University. And, of course, our global network of professors is pushing for dialogue at their respective administrations.
So I guess the challenge is less having the conversation than finding schools with open-minded administrations who are willing to believe that Bitcoin and the blockchain are the revolutionary technologies that they are.
CT: Can you tell us about the work you’re doing with Ausum Ventures?
JG: I like to call Ausum Venture a “horizontal blockchain incubator.” But, more accurately, it is the hodgepodge of bitcoin-related projects I am working on. I have two main undertakings that I am working on (besides CCN, of course). 1 - The aforementioned, robust, point-of-sale payment terminal/software for cryptocurrencies and credit card, which is called MariPoSa.
And 2 - a trustless, peer-to-peer decentralized prediction market platform titled the Decider protocol (formerly “Truthcoin”). This, more or less, is set to turn the betting world upside down, and provide a wealth of groundbreaking data for academics, governments, and individuals.