Meet the Old Etonian Blockchain Association: an all-male, nearly four-year-old club which emerged from one of the most elite private schools in the UK.
The pricey boarding school, which is more than 500-years-old, is probably best-known for producing a seemingly never-ending pipeline of future prime ministers and top politicians. It has also educated writers including George Orwell and Aldous Huxley; actors such as Eddie Redmayne and Hugh Laurie; and the future king of England. The list goes on.
More recently, though, its alumni have turned to creating something less familiar: soulbound tokens.
Sam Chamberlain, OEBA president and the UK local markets manager of exchange group OKX, is spearheading the effort. He wants the crypto-backed tokens to represent membership for the now 150-strong club which has emerged from the gatekept institution.
“We were working on an Eton NFT — the only problem is having it openly tradable,” said Chamberlain.
The membership tokens for a group of elite men comes as men already dominate technology in general, and crypto in particular. A 2021 CNBC/Acorn survey found that twice as many men as women invest in crypto and in general Black and Hispanic women have lower rates of investing relative to white women.
Chamberlain hopes the club will have a positive influence with its elite membership. The mandate to entertain the club with tidbits about crypto comes alongside a directive to try to make sure digital currency has a “genuine positive impact on society.”
To that end, despite being all-male, the leaders hope to give a platform to women in the space. Time at each quarterly meeting is dedicated to showcasing businesses led by people with diverse backgrounds that are in need of support or investment.
“It’s not just a load of old white men dealing each other in,” he said. “We’re looking to go in a direction where we’re looking outwards not inwards.”
Age is a kind of diversity
Despite the slightly homogenous nature of the most expensive private education in the UK, Chamberlain assures that the membership is diverse — in age, anyway — with recent grads of 18 rubbing shoulders with 80-year-olds at meetings. "High profile" politicians, people who formerly owned mines (the old-fashioned kind), and reality TV stars are in the mix, said Chamberlain, but declined to comment on specifics.
One can only speculate as to which bigwigs might be involved; not mentioning, of course, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech touting the possibilities of crypto at a blockchain conference in Singapore, or David Cameron’s appearance at the opening of a bitcoin wallet’s offices, as noted by the FT back in 2017.
Future pupils of the £46,200 ($55,800)-a-year school can also hope to benefit from the expertise within the club, as it works to implement an educational program. Eton sixth formers – typically aged 16 to 18 – will now have the option to take a blockchain module as part of their studies, with former pupils as consultants.
The club’s emergence comes at a time when governments around the world are tightening the screws on crypto regulation. From the UK’s recent directive on CBDC to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's crackdown on exchanges and stablecoins, the world and its leaders are watching.
Despite its growth, bedding in the club hasn’t all been plain sailing for Chamberlain.
“There were a few raised eyebrows at school where people were asking ‘What is this’? People were worried about crime and underground activities,” he said.
Despite this, it’s come a long way from five guys led by a solitary bitcoin bull roughly four years ago from whom Chamberlain took the reins. The club’s previous leader now lives off the spoils of his crypto takings in a monastery somewhere in the South of France, Chamberlain said.
It's no wonder the corridors of power are taking a bit more notice of blockchain: Britain’s elite certainly is.
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