MIAMI – Crypto lingo and alcohol poured in as thousands of bitcoin enthusiasts descended on South Florida over the weekend.
At Bitcoin 2021, billed as the biggest bitcoin event in history, legions of loyal fans braved 90-degree days to talk about all things crypto. Many of the conference attendees were bitcoin maximalists, a phrase used to describe people who believe bitcoin, and not necessarily other cryptocurrencies, is the future of finance. Most provide BTD (buy the drop) and HODL (hold on for life).
The energy was electric. A maskless, sold-out crowd of 12,000 attendees spent two days cheering, hugging, sending cryptos from wallet to wallet and making trade deals between panels and speeches. The novelty of participating in a largely indoor event, without Covid restrictions, added to the mood.
A standard event pass costs $ 1,499. Some guests paid for a coveted orange bracelet, known as the “Whale Pass,” which takes its name from a term used to describe people who hold large sums of bitcoin. The pass gave access to an additional day of speakers, exclusive evenings and a private area in the congress hall with a free bar. On the first day of the conference, it was selling on Eventbrite for $ 21,000, plus a transaction fee of $ 529.
The eyes of the crowd were mixed. Conference images like neon-colored fanny packs, 2021 Bitcoin branded sunglasses, and t-shirts with crypto puns and hashtags. Some looked ready for a summer rave, wearing bikinis in the media room.
However, there was also a strong contingent dressed in standard Wall Street business attire, another sign of the growing public interest in the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. âWhether it’s attendees or just Miami for the events, this is a more institutional turnout than I’ve ever seen at a Bitcoin conference,â Nic Carter told CNBC, founding partner of Castle Island Ventures.
Miami lights up for crypto
For the thousands of people who didn’t get an official ticket to the event, the parties and tangential gatherings were the real draw. There were yacht parties with a DeFi (decentralized finance) theme, sumo wrestling matches, NFT art gallery openings, and cocktails dedicated to talking about Bitclout, a social network built on blockchain technology that under- tend most cryptocurrencies.
After parties have taken over the city skyline, with at least one featuring fire dancers. The Oasis, one of Miami’s biggest nightclubs, was non-stop crypto.
“There is no way to quantify how much an event like this drives business,” said Mati Greenspan, portfolio manager and founder of Quantum Economics, who arrived from Israel on Wednesday evening for the event. . “What might take me an hour in a home meeting can be done in five or ten minutes in a conference. So each hour is worth five or ten meetings.”
Fire dancers entertain crypto enthusiasts at a rooftop party in Miami.
Much has been said about moving to Miami. Start-ups, venture capitalists and crypto exchanges have relocated en masse to the city – or at least have opened additional offices.
Mayor Francis Suarez introduced himself as a friend of bitcoin – Suarez announced in February that Miami plans to accept bitcoin tax payments and allow employees to collect their wages in cryptocurrency, although the timing of the rollout is unclear. The city is also considering holding bitcoin on its balance sheet.
Now the whole town seems to be getting down to it. âFrom waiters to Uber drivers, a bouncer at the nightclub and even a lady selling tchotchkes at the mall, most of the locals I met in the field seemed somewhat familiar with cryptocurrencies, and a lot of them. ‘between them are HODLing,’ said Greenspan of the few days he spent in Miami.
Carter himself is considering the move. âAlmost everyone I’ve spoken to is very bullish on Texas and Florida and quite bearish on New York, San Francisco and Boston,â he said. “I left thinking I was going to make this transition myself.”
“Bitcoin fixes everything”
A common refrain from some of the biggest names on stage was that âbitcoin fixes everything,â which pretty much sums up the overall sentiment of the conference.
âWe say bitcoin is hope; bitcoin fixes everything,â Saylor said. “That was certainly the case with our stock.”
Dorsey also doubled down on her commitment to cryptocurrency. âIf I wasn’t at Square or Twitter, I would be working on Bitcoin. If he needed more help than Square and Twitter, I would leave them for Bitcoin,â Dorsey said.
The implication of widespread support for bitcoin was accompanied by a spirit of rebellion against the existing financial system.
âWe don’t need the banks anymore,â Dorsey continued. “We don’t need the financial institutions we have today.”
Cameron Winklevoss wore a t-shirt with a photo of the Federal Reserve building with a caption reading “Rage against the machine,” a reference to how bitcoin is not controlled by a central bank.
As one MC on the panel put it, “We’re going to bankrupt the Fed,” which is how the folks at Bitcoin 2021 generally viewed the monetary system and fiat currency, with bitcoin seen as the solution.
Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss (LR), creators of the Gemini Trust Co. crypto exchange on stage during the 2021 Bitcoin Convention, a cryptocurrency conference held at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood on June 4, 2021 in Miami, in Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
But repudiation of the status quo does not mean anarchy. In many of my conversations with the participants, the narrative was far from inciting the collapse or dissolution of the company.
âThe whole point of bitcoin is that it’s a … peaceful protest against a monetary system that people don’t want to be a part of,â Carter said. “I don’t think the Fed has much to fear from bitcoin. You don’t have to take to the streets to promote bitcoin.”
The conference drew participants from countries with high inflation or other currency problems – places like Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, Nigeria, Lebanon and Iran – who perhaps understand the case best. use of a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin.
âThere are hundreds of people in these places and you don’t have to explain bitcoin to them; they understand it intuitively,â Carter explained. “It was one of the best parts of the conference for me: meeting people who felt the real impact of the currency collapse and seeing how they are using bitcoin.”
One of the recurring themes of the conference was the maturity of the Lightning Network, a bitcoin-based payment platform that enables instant transactions.
Virtually all of the conference booths accepted Lightning transactions. Even Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey ended one during his mainstage conversation with Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation.
âIt’s a real achievement,â Carter said. “It took four or five years for Lightning to be built on bitcoin, but it’s working now.”
Elon Musk was not physically in Miami but his presence was definitely felt. From the start of the conference, the price of bitcoin plummeted following a tweet from the Tesla CEO who implied he was breaking currency.
Max Keizer, a prominent bitcoin holder, started his conversation by the fireside cursing Musk’s name, shouting, “F — Elon!” several times.
On the main stage, Dorsey took what appeared to be a veiled shot of Musk’s criticism of the environmental impact of bitcoin mining, saying it was “actually pushing for more renewable energy.”
âYou just have to look at the economics of it and ultimately the miners have to make a profit and getting cheap renewable energy maximizes their profit potential. It really is that simple,â continued Dorsey. “I thought I had a deal with some notable people, and that seemed to change in a matter of weeks and now it’s in a strange place.”
Michael Saylor, a leading crypto advocate and CEO of MicroStrategy – a company that bought bitcoin for its balance sheet last year, ahead of Square and Tesla – took Dorsey’s comments a step further.
âItâs the highest value intermittent energy use. Itâs the highest value renewable energy use. Itâs the higher value use of wasted or stranded energy. It’s just the highest value energy use, period, âSaylor said.
NFL player and bitcoin fan Russell Okung kicked off a poster campaign on Friday with the slogan “Stick to space, Elon,” a reference to the fact that Musk should stay in his lane and leave crypto to those in the industry.
Most conference attendees said they ignored his comments anyway. Many have said they don’t believe Musk, or anyone else – not even governments – can stop bitcoin. One person in the queue called him a clown, referring to his promotion of a new cryptocurrency with a pornographic name over the weekend.