Advancing blockchain innovation and policy

March 3, 2022
Alison Mangiero, '05, is an industry leader at the intersection of blockchain technology and policy

When Alison Mangiero graduated from the University of Richmond in 2005, blockchain technology was far from mainstream. Three years later, the publication of a whitepaper on the digital currency bitcoin revolutionized the technology world. It also introduced the general public to blockchain technology, which uses digital lists of records linked together by cryptography that blocks access by unauthorized third parties. 

Mangiero jumped into the emerging world of blockchain technology in 2018 when she founded and became president of TQ, shorthand for the Tocqueville Group. The company worked with various ecosystem partners around the world to incubate new ventures and build products, open source software, and other public goods on the Tezos blockchain. 

To the casual observer, Mangiero’s evolution from an undergraduate majoring in leadership studies and political science to the leader of a cutting-edge technology company might seem unlikely. Not at all, she said.

“At the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, I learned how to treat people, interact within organizations, and make hard decisions,” Mangiero said. “I learned skills that have enabled me to pivot and hold leadership roles in different fields, including academia, public policy, membership organizations, and the tech sector.”

The common thread is her interest in how people organize and govern themselves, something she explored as an undergraduate at the Jepson School. 

Mangiero recalled her fascination with 19th-century French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, whose writings she first encountered in her leadership studies senior seminar led by Dr. Gary L. McDowell.

“We read ‘Democracy in America,’ Tocqueville’s seminal work on America’s new democratic system of governance,” she said. “After visiting America, Tocqueville reported back to French aristocrats: ‘Hey, I’ve seen what equality of conditions makes possible! People are organizing themselves in a new way, and we need a new kind of political science for a world altogether new.’”

Much as Tocqueville explored the new political, social, and economic order unfolding in 19th-century America, Mangiero explores what she considers a new way of organizing, interacting, and transacting in the 21st-century digital world.

“Although blockchain communities are neither nation states nor traditional companies, they still need to govern themselves,” she said. “The Tezos blockchain community appealed to me as a digital commonwealth that relies on stakeholder governance to connect people all over the world in a fundamentally new way. My interest in blockchain technology still derives from how it enables social and economic innovation – which we’re now seeing with the explosion of web3, NFTs, and DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations.” 

This summer, TQ spun off three companies, thereby morphing from a 50- to a five-person organization that now primarily provides operational and advisory support to its three spin-offs. 

Mangiero too has morphed. In January, the TQ president also became acting executive director of the Proof of Stake Alliance (POSA), an organization that advocates for better public policy for the staking industry.  

“Staking is a multi-billion-dollar global industry,” she said. “Excluding stablecoins, seven of the top 10 cryptocurrencies utilize proof-of-stake consensus mechanisms. Even so, lawmakers often don’t understand the nuances of the technology, and convoluted federal policy risks turning the U.S. into a second-rate market for the growing industry. At POSA, we help educate lawmakers on cryptocurrency and proof of stake, while collaborating with other leaders in the staking field to amplify their voices and advocate for fair regulation.” 

The Richmond graduate relishes being at the forefront of the tech industry and public policy: “My Jepson education prepared me to thrive in the ever-changing environments of the 21st century.”