MIAMI – There’s money in the air. Keywords floating around, like NFT, BTD, blockchain, token. There is a frenzied energy.
And there’s the heat – the wet, sticky heat of South Florida; the kind that all Californians and New Yorkers who move to Miami during the winter gloom of the pandemic have been warned. The kind created by thousands upon thousands of people gathered to worship at the crypto altar.
That’s the vibe at Bitcoin 2021, an occasional gathering of crypto enthusiasts run by a magazine named after the cryptocurrency. Last year’s event was postponed. But on Friday and Saturday, at least 12,000 people flocked to Miami to make up for lost time, flocking to the world’s largest Bitcoin conference and the first major live business conference since the pandemic began. .
For the first time in more than a year, the appearance of people in person, indoors, in a crowd is electric. Everyone hugged each other, no one covered their faces. Money is compressed between digital wallets. The conference included neon fanny packs, carnival bracelets and a Lamborghini car. The jargon – stablecoin, peer-to-peer, private key – is used. So is wine.
For a few days, the city was a raging fireball of finance, technology, and merry anarchy, of unpredictable riches and desperate striving. Bitcoin 2021 heralds a pandemic retreat, with familiar and pleasant elements of a business conference: branded plastic sunglasses, brightly colored sponsor booths, lanyards, and dashboards. Some attendees wore business attire. Others look ready for a music festival. One wears a fur bikini.
It’s another sign that the often absurd world of digital currencies is inching toward mainstream adoption, or at least mainstream curiosity. Since the end of last year, Bitcoin has been on a strong run, setting price records. Even the dramatic plunge from the high of $64,000 in April to $36,000 now doesn’t dampen morale. They are BTD – buy software. Wall Street banker, institutional investors and Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, all go to Miami.
Are people there to dance, to revolutionize the global financial system or just to get rich?
Several attendees told me the event provided catharsis, a signal that the pandemic was indeed over. The line on Friday morning to enter the site, a warehouse and outdoor site called Mana Wynwood, spans more than a mile. It was the biggest crowd I’ve seen in a year.
Others are simply there to party. The shop opened immediately and had as many customers as at a coffee shop.
‘You’ll be a millionaire’
There’s a reason we’re in Miami and not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. The city has used the cryptocurrency fully.
Bitcoin ATMs are scattered throughout the Wynwood neighborhood. A cryptocurrency exchange called FTX recently purchased the naming rights to the Miami Heat stadium. Miami’s Mayor, Francis Suarez, announced this year that the city will accept tax payments in cryptocurrencies, allowing its employees to collect wages and explore holdings for some on the balance sheet. city accountant. (The logistics of these announcements are still being studied.)
Shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, as crowds poured into the air-conditioned warehouse, a conference organizer introduced Mr. Suarez as “perhaps the most irresponsible politician in the whole of America, the mayor of the sanctuary of freedom”.
Mr. Suarez has set a defiant tone. “I’m here to tell all the haters and all the doubters that this is not the moment, this is a movement,” he said. The crowd erupted in cheers and cheers.
Moishe Mana, the real estate mogul who owns the venue, walked around the crowded area of crypto art and booths with a small entourage. After years of working to bring companies, people and innovation to the city, he has begun Miami’s ascent.
Mana says the appeal of New York and San Francisco is waning. He added: “Every city has its own golden age. “Nothing lasts forever.”
Mana is not a big cryptocurrency, but he has recognized its power, comparing its followers’ devotion to a religion. “The more you resist religion, the more holy religion becomes and the stronger the movement becomes,” he said.
On stage, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, crypto entrepreneurs and billionaires, lectured the choir. Cameron Winklevoss wears a T-shirt featuring the Federal Reserve building with the caption “Rage Against the Machines,” alluding to how cryptocurrencies are not controlled by governments or central banks.
“If you own one Bitcoin today, you will be a millionaire in the future. Sure. Congratulations,” he said.
Then Jack Dorsey, the chief executive officer of Twitter and payments company Square, offered his own endorsement. “If I wasn’t at Square or Twitter, I would be working on Bitcoin,” he said.
‘Horses never die’
A few blocks away, in a warehouse co-working space called LAB Miami, about 50 people gathered to talk about digital art and collections known as NFTs, or zero tokens. usable, has exploded in popularity this year.
About half of the group are Miami residents like Stephanie Davis, who left her job at Google in Silicon Valley and moved in with her husband, Eric Kami, last year. Mr. Kami, who also worked at Google, has a startup called Tribe Socks.
In Silicon Valley, letting Google work with socks makes people ask if they’re okay, Ms. Davis said. But in Miami, she said, “Everybody said, ‘Congratulations!'”
Speaking in front of the room, Drew Austin, an entrepreneur and investor, described his success on NBA Top Shot, a website that buys and sells digital basketball clips. Another panelist, Alex Taub, cut in to clarify: “He basically spent $30,000 to $50,000 and it was worth over $2 million.”
Mr. Austin credited the NBA Top Shot with making cryptocurrency accessible to general users. “I have been preaching crypto to my friends since 2013, and the first time any of them have done anything with crypto is NBA Top Shot,” he said.
The conversation turned to the recent drop in the NFT market. According to an analysis by Protos, a crypto-focused media company, the weekly value of NFT sales is down 90% from its peak in early May.
“90% of NFTs will become worthless,” warned Mr. Taub.
The conversation turned to Zed Run, a website to buy, race and breed digital horses. Ali Spagnola, a popular YouTuber who started selling his paintings as NFTs, asked Roman Tirone, head of business partnerships at Zed Run, how long do digital horses live.
“Horses never die,” he said.
Down the street at the historic Lyric Theatre, a crowd sipped at a “Wine, Women and Cryptocurrency” gathering. Najah Roberts, a crypto executive, and Hill Harper, the actor who created an app called The Black Wall Street, explain that investing in crypto is an important step towards financial freedom. primary and wealth for the Black community.
“They can’t colonize Bitcoin,” said Mr. Hill, referring to the pseudonym of Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.
According to a survey by The Ascent, a financial services rating website, only 14% of American adults have purchased cryptocurrency. Of those who haven’t joined yet, 20% said they’re already planning this year.
One attendee, Shownda Pagan, a nonprofit executive, said she bought Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency, Dogecoin, more than a year ago after her grandson and son encourage her to do the same. She also bought shares of AMC, the highly regarded movie theater chain, which has skyrocketed and has become a “meme stock” sought after by traders on social media. She said she was blown away by the rapid rise of her stock.
“Now I love these,” she said.
Under the string lights
As the sky turns pink and then black, Bitcoin 2021 is split into cocktail hours, rooftop dinners, boat parties and clubs.
I watched as colleagues who had worked together over Slack and Zoom for a year met for the first time and hugged. Under the string lights eating a sushi buffet, a young man started about something called DeFi staking. EDM beats gently.
Some gossiped about the night’s “Whale” party, for attendees who bought a special $19,795 ticket to the convention and speculated on who would win Sunday’s boxing match. between Floyd Mayweather Jr., former boxer and current crypto peddler, and Logan Paul, Youtuber. (Mr Mayweather spoke at Bitcoin 2021.) Elon Musk, who can make crypto volatile with a single tweet, has been praised and ridiculed.
After a year of isolation, it looks like Twitter has come to life. But we were all there together, and the view was beautiful.