TheBridge profile: Mike Lempres
Name: Mike Lempres
Current city: Atherton, CA
Current job: Executive In Residence at Andreessen Horowitz
Past job: Chief Policy Officer at Coinbase; Chief Legal & Risk Officer at Coinbse; Mayor of Atherton, CA
(*Note: at the time of this conversation, Mike was at Coinbase.)
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Coinbase HQ
Q. Describe one how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Every job I've ever had has helped prepare me for Coinbase. Working in the government for many years helped me understand the regulatory process and what regulators are trying to accomplish. It also taught me deep respect for the difficult positions in which regulators often find themselves as they consider new technologies. One thing that experience enables me to do is to help design ways for new technologies, like cryptocurrencies, to operate in a way that gives comfort to regulators and helps them achieve their goals. My previous work in traditional financial services (a stock and options exchange, plus a bank) also helps me spot issues from the traditional finance arena that play out in the digital currency world. It's simply pattern recognition in a new space.
Q. Job advice in three words? Be curious/resilient
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? At Coinbase, we operate as a bridge between traditional financial services and the new world of cryptocurrencies by providing the most trusted, secure and easiest-to-use service. In many ways that is the same gap we bridge as we introduce the benefits, utility and potential of digital currencies to policy makers. We strive to be the most trusted, secure and easiest-to-use resource for policy makers as they engage on digital currency issues. We believe that the more they understand, the better policies will result. As such, we take every opportunity to tell our story, letting regulators and policy makers know that we view them as our partners as we work to build a new, more equitable and open financial system for the world.
Q: Best advice you’ve received? The best advice I ever received is to default to transparency, especially when you've made a mistake. Trust is essential in relationships with co-workers, partners, consumers, regulators, policy makers, and more. It can actually build trust to explain how a well-intentioned decision turned out badly. If someone thinks that you are not being candid or are covering up, trust can be lost or damaged forever.
Q: What can Silicon Valley teach DC? Silicon Valley can teach DC to imagine new possibilities. DC is primarily focused on incumbent technologies and companies, and on how to allocate existing resources; tech is inherently disruptive to incumbents and can create new resources -- it's a different way of thinking from which DC can benefit.
Q. What can DC teach Silicon Valley? DC can help Silicon Valley think more broadly about some of the risks and benefits our products create. Issues like consumer protection, privacy, a third party's abuse of our products, and cyber security standards are all important issues where DC adds valuable perspective. That additional DC perspective can help create a tech ecosystem that works better for a wider variety of people.
Q: Which Member of Congress is most tech savvy? This is an interesting question, but it's more important that Members develop and support policies that enable innovation. Someone can be incredibly helpful to the tech ecosystem without being any kind of an expert in the space, and thank goodness for that! On cryptocurrency issues, we are very lucky to have a number of Members who are knowledgeable and supportive. Even better, almost all policy makers are taking care to avoid doing harm to this new technology that has such incredible potential to lift billions of people out of poverty worldwide.
Q: Startup to watch? This one's easy - Coinbase!
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