WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are almost one million small businesses in Ohio — and their future may revolve around blockchain technology.

  • Ohio entrepreneurs testified on Capitol Hill
  • Encouraged small businesses to use blockchain technology
  • Said Congress is starting to understand it

And no, I’m not just talking about digital currency like Bitcoin.

“Blockchain is a ledger — it’s a database,” said Dawn Dickson. “So, it’s a secure database. So we’re talking about how can businesses use a very secure, decentralized database.”

Dickson is CEO of the Columbus-based company PopCom.

We profiled her and her automated vending machines — that check IDs for alcohol or cannabis — earlier this year.

On Wednesday, she was one of two Ohio entrepreneurs in Washington to testify before the House Small Business Committee about the type of technology her company has embraced.

“Blockchain is not a silver bullet, however it can solve problems that small businesses face,” she said in her opening statement.

Alongside her was Shane Bigelow, the CEO of Ownum, a company based in Cleveland that is using blockchain to digitize vital records like birth certificates or vehicle titles.

“t’s very easy for a bank to acknowledge that hey, you paid off your loan, this is your title,” Bigelow said in an interview after the hearing. “Instead of sending you to the DMV to have to get a new piece of paper, they immediately transfer that to you and it shows up on your phone. That is the type of change that small business needs in order to be more efficient and not waste time on government processes.”

Cincinnati-area Representative Steve Chabot (R, 1st Congressional District) is the top Republican on the committee.

“It is important to examine this growing field in order to learn more about the potential security benefits and cost reductions,” Chabot said during his opening statement.

Both Bigelow and Dickson said the work the House Small Business Committee is doing on blockchain is encouraging and bipartisan, but they also said there are specific steps the federal government can take to help their cause move forward.

Dickson wants the Small Business Administration to create a blockchain-focused federal loan program "that will give funding to businesses that use blockchain and small businesses that want to, not build it, but use in their products and services.”

And Bigelow wants members of Congress to learn enough about it so they can help move the focus from the technology to its function.

“That will allow blockchain to advance without people having to get too deep into the technical weeds,” he said. "And if the federal government does it, then state governments will follow and that’s really what we’re looking for is for the state governments to follow.”

Bigelow said small businesses across Ohio, from car dealerships to local clerks of court, are starting to understand and use blockchain technology.