Switzerland will not step off the gas when it comes to being a leading destination for crypto and blockchain companies

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A conversation with Ian Simpson

Ian Simpson, a co-founder and board member of the Swiss-Polish Blockchain Association, has been a veteran of Switzerland’s Crypto Valley for over 5 years, helping grow startups and companies in the blockchain industry and leading communications at the Crypto Valley Association. Previously, he lived nearly 10 years in Poland. Today, Ian helps drive marketing and communications at Bitcoin Suisse, Switzerland’s oldest and largest crypto-financial services company. 


By Swiss-Polish Blockchain Association team


How has the crypto and blockchain industry changed since you first got involved?
Obviously, the crypto and blockchain space is evolving at an amazing pace - so some things have changed drastically. But there are always themes and certain areas that remain the same.
A conversation with Ian Simpson
I was working in a startup in Poland when I first learned about crypto and the Crypto Valley in Switzerland. I was planning to move to Switzerland and I started Googling to see ‘what kind of startups there are in the area.’ Well, it wasn’t too long before I found out that there was a vibrant blockchain and crypto scene going on here in Switzerland. There was a lot of energy right at that time, in late 2016 and early 2017. It seemed like the sky was the limit and “blockchain” could solve anything. Now I think there is a lot less FOMO, a lot more realism. But at the same time, crypto has proven itself to be resilient. Market movements have shown that this is not a fluke. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not just going to disappear. I think crypto is still challenging the status quo - but with the pandemic, there is an even wider push to “rethink everything.” So in that sense, crypto and DeFi and other new innovations do not seem as “far out” as used to. And of course, already at that time there were several projects with roots in Poland that were benefiting from the dynamic Swiss blockchain ecosystem. It seemed like the whole world was landing in Zug with their companies. Now there are more and more professional services being built around cryptocurrencies. With ETFs and ETPs on the market, with service providers like Bitcoin Suisse who have deep knowledge of the technology, the entire industry is expanding. But of course, it still retains its slight element of craziness - which is good!
How are things developing at Bitcoin Suisse? Where are things headed for Switzerland’s original crypto pioneer?
Like I mentioned, the industry is professionalizing to a certain degree - and that is where Bitcoin Suisse continues to be a leader. After being one of the first to offer broad access to crypto markets for trading, Bitcoin Suisse was also one of the very first companies to offer staking on Ethereum 2 from the first day the network went live (in December 2020). So to answer the question - where are things headed, the answer can be: forward! We don’t always know where the next opportunities will be, but we push forward and try to “think beyond” - always looking to see what we can develop next.
Switzerland has positioned itself as a very attractive place for blockchain and crypto projects - and has done very well. Do you think this will continue to be the case in the future?
I am sure that Switzerland will not step off the gas when it comes to being a leading destination for crypto and blockchain companies - and for those looking to gain expertise in these areas. The “first-mover advantage” that Switzerland had at the beginning may now play less of a role and the “top quality” that the country is known for in many other areas will probably become more of a factor. We see this in some of the companies which now want to move to Switzerland. They know that there is a strong but open regulatory framework and lots of quality people here. I like to think about what can happen when experienced crypto pioneers in Switzerland and ingenious inventors from Poland get together! There is a lot of potential there.
At the end of 2020, Bitcoin’s value soared. What is your experience - has this translated into a lot more interest among Swiss people?
It is true that coverage of Bitcoin and crypto in local media in Switzerland really did follow the price action - both up and down. But that is the nature of media. I was most surprised by the number of people, even among my friends (in Swiss Romandie, for instance) who have ended up investing or exploring blockchain - people I never would have imagined to be interested! So I think price does create a spark - but then you always have to dig deeper. And here I think it’s still hard to tell if Swiss people are genuinely interested in the technology and its potential - or more in what they can earn with it.
Thanks to the cooperation with Bitcoin Suisse, along with Worldline, residents in canton Zug can pay their taxes in Bitcoin. Do you think other Swiss cantons will follow?
Zug has been a great pioneer in accepting cryptocurrencies. You have to take your hat off to them for that! I am not sure if other cantons are quite as adventuresome - but eventually, they may not have a choice but to follow along. And the partnership between Bitcoin Suisse and Worldline has made it extremely easy to accept Bitcoin, also for tax payments. So why not?