Solana co-founder: 'To keep the next great American founder in America, Congress must regulate crypto. But first lawmakers should learn how it works'

I was born under Soviet rule in modern-day Ukraine. We moved to America when I was 11. Even at that age, I was very aware of the differences between the place I grew up–where access to assets and information was controlled with an iron fist–and my new home–where opportunity was unbound.

I wanted to become an engineer and build big, ambitious projects. So, I studied computer science and spent over a decade building global networks at Qualcomm. A few years ago, I took the plunge as an entrepreneur myself and helped launch a project called Solana, a blockchain built for global accessibility. I want everyone in the world to have equal access to an open, interoperable global network, one that no single person or entity can shut down.

Today, a new generation of thousands of blockchain developers are diving into their own entrepreneurial journeys. Many of them are taking on ambitious projects, competing against today’s corporate giants. They’re building user-owned wireless networks, ridesharing networks, food delivery services, and social platforms to someday compete with Comcast, Google, Uber, and Facebook. Many are in the United States. Increasingly, many are not. 

I meet promising entrepreneurs every day who want to build the next great technological innovation in America but don’t know how to build a blockchain company in a compliant way. For typical startups, the first step is incorporating your company for less than $500 on LegalZoom. For blockchain companies, it means pouring precious amounts of time, energy, and often tens of thousands of dollars into legal fees trying to structure their businesses to operate in a compliant manner. It’s well-documented that there’s no viable path to reasonable regulatory certainty in the space. For young entrepreneurs, the absence of clear rules is terrifying. They see public, multi-billion dollar companies struggle to navigate the legal landscape, and wonder how their tiny project will survive. 

Faced with the choice of staying in America or building their dream, more founders are choosing to leave. In 2018, the U.S. was home to 42% of the world’s open-source blockchain developers, according to Electric Capital. By 2022, that figure dropped to 29%. 

As with any new technology,  there have been scams in the digital asset space, and we should do everything possible to eliminate them. But a well-functioning economy shouldn’t punish an entire industry for the actions of its worst elements. Many of us are here because we want to create real value–and we want American values at the foundation of the world’s most impactful companies. Imagine if Google had been founded in Russia, or Reddit had been founded in China. How different would the internet look today? For the U.S. to attract and retain the very best talent in the new digital landscape, we need a cogent regulatory framework that protects consumers and encourages entrepreneurship.

In addition to clarity being provided in the courts, two Congressional committees advanced key pieces of legislation in July that would create regulatory frameworks for digital assets and stablecoins on a bipartisan basis. This fall, the full House will have the opportunity to vote on these two bills.

The bills aren’t perfect. No legislation is. As a country and as an industry, we cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good. Congress must continue stewarding these efforts to protect American technological leadership, provide important market protections, and promote a free and open internet. I applaud the efforts of members from both parties to move these bills forward, and I hope legislators across both chambers will take these proposals seriously, work to improve them, and turn them into law.

Beyond legislation, our government should be at the forefront of investing in blockchain research and development. Some of the most meaningful technologies on earth–GPS, rockets, and even the internet–were initially incubated by the U.S. government. European and Asian governments are already investing in blockchain. The European Commission even runs a digital ledger sandbox to identify potential private-public partnerships. We should do the same. 

Policymakers need to experiment with the technology themselves. Ethics rules prohibit most government officials who regulate digital assets from using them.This makes it tough to craft good policy: Imagine trying to regulate social media without having ever opened Facebook!

There are creative solutions that give policymakers access to the technology. For example, the government could take advantage of crypto’s speed and cost-effectiveness to send humanitarian relief funds and launch decentralized communications networks in low-connectivity areas. 

There are hundreds of ways that the U.S. government can encourage this new wave of the internet and support brilliant blockchain entrepreneurs. I welcome an open conversation with policymakers about web3, its potential, and yes, its pitfalls. Let’s keep builders building in America.

Anatoly Yakovenko is a co-founder of Solana and the CEO of Solana Labs.

The opinions expressed in commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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