The Madison Blockchain Hackathon, 2018 (via MouseBelt).

New Blockchain Education Alliance goal: Attracting top talent fresh out of school to blockchain

Created by blockchain accelerator MouseBelt, the group has attracted partners like the Stellar Development Foundation and TRON.

Blockchain accelerator MouseBelt announced it has joined with more than a dozen firms to create the Blockchain Education Alliance, aimed at attracting students to the industry.

Unveiled on October 10, the investment firm’s initiative expanded its MouseBelt University educational outreach program by partnering with the Stellar Development Foundation, TRON, Hedera Hashgraph, Ontology, and nine others firms.

MouseBelt provides venture funding in an accelerator support program for blockchain startups. About 18 months ago, it created MouseBelt University to provide support, educational resources, and mentoring to 68 student-run blockchain associations around the world. In September, it began funding college courses and research at UCLA and two other University of  California campuses.

“It’s been interesting to get on calls with these companies that see that there’s a lack of good resources for students who want to start developing on blockchain,” Ashlie Meredith, the MouseBelt University program director, told Modern Consensus. “There’s an ethos in the space right now that agrees with us.”

Many of those companies’ leaders “really wanted to get involved,” she said. But without a staff member dedicated to student outreach, “they didn’t know how to start,” she added.

Other BEA members included ICON, Wanchain, Harmony One, Nervos, LTO Network, Emurgo, NEM, and ETC Labs.

“It made a lot of sense for somebody to serve as a catalyst to get all these collaborations going,” said Meredith. “[H]aving MouseBelt… be a central rallying point around these kinds of initiatives, is great.”

A foot in more doors

Joining the BEA was a no-brainer for Tel Aviv-based Orbs, said Gili Ovadia, head of global business operations for the provider of enterprise-focused blockchain infrastructure.

Orbs contacted MouseBelt before learning about the BEA, he added. The firm had organized a hackathon in partnership with the Global Blockchain Business Council and the United Nations and wanted to do more. Held in New York in late September, the hackathon was aimed at developing blockchain solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

While the firm has, of course, reached out to big enterprise developers, “in parallel, we are trying to expose the Orbs technology to students in order to increase the adoption,” said Ovadia. “To get different projects and different use cases tested on top of Orbs is, I would say, the main goal.”

By partnering with the BEA, he said, the company hoped to be able to expand its efforts exponentially.

“We believe Orbs is one of the most easy-to-use, flexible [platforms],” Ovadia explained. “We believe once a blockchain developer learns about it and tests it, they will be more inclined to use it.”

Growing slowly

Meredith explained that the company views MouseBelt University as an investment in the industry, which has faced a shortage of trained engineers. However, it also gets the company a first look at aspiring developers and new startups seeking funding.

Initially, MouseBelt plans to limit the Alliance to 20 members as it builds more educational initiatives and scales the number of student-run organizations it works with to 100, said Meredith.

MouseBelt University was already working with student-run organizations doing things like organizing hackathons and meet-ups, setting office hours and talks with industry leaders, and providing educational content at institutions such as Harvard, Michigan State, and Yeshiva University, she noted.

Internationally, Meredith’s outreach has stretched from Britain’s Oxford and Cambridge to the University of Sydney, the University of Hong Kong, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, among others.

With the new University of California initiative, she added, MouseBelt can also help Alliance members “engage with researchers to develop new use cases that will address specific challenges within their industry.”

Updated at 12:20 pm ET on October 10 to correct description of the Orbs blockchain.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.