Ryan Zinke spent most of the last two years pursuing an industry-friendly agenda as secretary of the interior. Then, last month, he announced his resignation under pressure from the White House. Now Zinke is joining the blockchain industry.
“There is some suspicion that blockchain does not really work,” Zinke said in an interview with the Swiss news site swissinfo.ch. “We think it does and we want to showcase the utility and flexibility of the model.”
Zinke has signed on with Artillery One, a new investment firm set up in 2017 by Wall Street financier Daniel Cannon. It’s not clear what kind of investments the firm is making, but the company is reportedly working on a project in Kosovo.
Kosovo “is a good example of an emerging economy where blockchain, financial instruments and cyber security can combine to have a meaningful impact,” Zinke said. “Proving the worth of the technology in the controlled environment of a small country is enormously important.”
“I don’t think [blockchain] will replace nations, but it will create enormous opportunity for those who don’t have access to capital or accountability in emerging economies,” Zinke added. “I feel confident it will lift up the underserved.”
Blockchain boosters have long pointed to developing countries with dysfunctional financial systems as possible markets for blockchain technologies. But the idea has been slow to gain traction. Countries like Venezuela do seem to see rising bitcoin usage in times of crisis, but even in those countries bitcoin and other blockchain networks seem to account for a trivial share of economic activity.
Zinke doesn’t see blockchain technologies limited to developing countries, however. He described the opportunities for using blockchain as “wide open.” Another possible application he mentioned is “tracing cobalt through blockchain to make sure production isn’t being done using child labor.” He also suggested that a similar model could work for tracking prescription drugs.
What value does a politician bring to a blockchain investing firm? “I bring leadership experience from being Secretary of the Interior at a 70,000-person organization, from Congress and from commanding a Navy SEAL team,” Zinke said. He downplayed the significance of his political connections, arguing that the firm was already well-connected in Washington before he joined.