The gist: After months of silence, the Lafayette Public Innovation Alliance finally held its first public meeting. The alliance will function as a trust for investing in innovation projects in Lafayette Parish and could serve as a vehicle for the mayor-president’s cryptocurrency and blockchain aspirations.
ICYMI: Earlier this year Mayor-President Robideaux proposed that LCG create a new public trust focused on developing Lafayette’s digital economy. The idea is to build a chest of cash that can help finance projects in the tech space and attract entrepreneurs to the area. It was approved by the City-Parish Council in July, but the first meeting wasn’t held until today.
LPIA elected its officers. Joel Robideaux (who appointed himself to the board) was elected chairman, Louisiana Economic Development VP Mandi Mitchell vice chairman, and UL professor Ramesh Kolluru secretary/treasurer. The other trustee in attendance was Bruce Greenstein, an LHC Group executive and former U.S. Department of Health and Hospitals CTO. The fifth and final trustee, Waitr CEO Chris Meaux, was unable to attend.
Robideaux floated exploring contracts with other entities to help manage the LPIA until the trust is able to afford to hire its own dedicated staff. (It’s got $100 of Robideaux’s own cash for seed money.) One potential partner here is UL. Kolluru indicated UL is open to such an arrangement, possibly paving the way for a cooperative endeavor agreement with the university.
Crypteaux figures in as a possible financial fuel for the trust. Robideaux recruited his campaign consultant Hilary “Joe” Castille, known for his role in City Marshal Brian Pope’s infamous press conference, and UL’s Matt Delcambre to discuss the use of cryptocurrencies issued by public entities. Castille is the architect of the “crypteaux” concept Robideaux announced earlier this year and runs with attorney Clay Burgess a company called CryptoResearch LLC, which has no formal relationship with LCG.
Castille believes private equity and VC investors are looking for safe ways to invest in cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies, given the crypto market’s recent trouble with scofflaws and emerging SEC scrutiny. Greenstein challenged Castille’s notion that many investors are looking to make “patient,” long-term investments like that represented in the innovation trust.
What to watch for: Where the LPIA goes from here and whether Robideaux’s crypto play has any legs. Coming out the gate, the group will look at traditional funding sources like economic development grants and think through issuing a municipal cryptocurrency. The trust will likely meet again in March.