A man poses in a bitcoin-themed art installation during the bitcoin 2022 conference at the miami beach convention center in miami beach, florida on april 7, 2022.
It’s Saturday afternoon in Miami Beach near the end of bitcoin 2022, a 92-hour bacchanal-style conference. The summit has attracted more than 25,000 people to discuss and glorify cryptocurrencies, and will close with a concert, the so-called Sound Money Festival, featuring two Grammy-nominated headliners, Logic and Steve Aoki.
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but there’s a smaller gathering across town at a hilton a few miles from the airport, a couple dozen men and four women in a windowless room at the back of the hotel. they’re here to carry guns and bitcoin, a two-day conclave on untraceable 3d-printed weapons. (Cryptocurrencies are used to power this shadow industry.) this conference is formally separate from bitcoin 2022 but connected to it nonetheless, drawing attendees from those already in town for bitcoin 2022. bear arms ‘n bitcoin encouraged people to register under a pseudonym if they so choose. they wanted. and for some, this makes subconference registration difficult. it’s hard to do when your name doesn’t match your alias and you’ve forgotten what alias you used.
one speaker, jeff rodriguez, gives a presentation on his popular liberator 12k shotguns and sets up a table to sell liberator 12k kits at home, available for $350 in bitcoin. (“I guess if someone really wanted to pay in dollars, I’d make an exception,” he says, five versions of his firearm spread out before him.) Another speaker is hacker-programmer Rachel-Rose O’Leary, who discusses Dark-Fi, a new blockchain that she promises will provide better privacy than existing ones. “We decided we had to have better, more anonymous technology that was more tailored to the degree of surveillance possible in the contemporary world,” says Ella O’leary, dressed in all black from her cutoff shirt to her thick-soled boots. she and the others behind dark-fi intend to turn it into a dao, a cooperative through social media. Several dark-fi engineers came from Assange Dao, the group that raised $50 million online supposedly to donate to Julian Assange’s legal defense.
So was bitcoin 2022, which started last Wednesday and ended early Sunday morning, and everything around it. In four years, the conference has become one of the largest conferences of any kind in the world, larger than Collision and from south to southwest and ever closer to the size of the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. .
It’s organized by btc media, publisher of the trade-focused bitcoin magazine, and the young event does a remarkable job of attracting average investors, politicians and billionaires alike. It presents a time for crypto-faithfuls to enjoy the growing attention around what was once seen as obtuse and worthless technology. technology embraced by a growing number of industries and groups beyond finance, as bear arms ‘n bitcoin and other adjacent events clearly demonstrate.
The forum is also an occasion for the cryptocurrency rich to flaunt the sudden and enormous wealth that cryptocurrencies have generated. (The value of bitcoin alone has shot up roughly 1,100% since the start of the conference in 2019.) they have the opportunity to do so in a city that offers abundant opportunities to strut and spend, a place that has been deliberately presented as a mecca for crypto enthusiasts and tech mavericks. . I needed some wealth just to pay for the 2022 bitcoin tickets. They started at $1,099 and went up to over $20,000 for a “whale pass” that offers VIP treatment, including chauffeured golf carts around Miami Beach.
The conference “is a cultural gathering, a celebration of bitcoin, the bitcoin movement and the counterculture,” says christian keroles, managing director of bitcoin magazine. “the old way of doing things exists, and i think the internet is moving things in a new direction.”
Much of bitcoin 2022 focused on familiar topics: how to value cryptocurrency, buy it, store it, sell it, trade it, and spend it. The keynote speaker, investor Mike Novogratz, suggested that Bitcoin could reach $500,000 per coin, which would be a meteoric rise from the current $42,000. Republican Senator from Wyoming. Cynthia Lummis attended for the second year, pledging bipartisan support for cryptocurrency, which will likely soon face its first wave of federal regulation. Meanwhile, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and tennis star Serena Williams hosted a panel to encourage the sports world to better embrace Bitcoin and other blockchain-based technologies.
A keynote speech came from venture capitalist Peter Thiel and was most notable for the harsh words he had for billionaires Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon and Larry Fink. They formed the “enemies list” that Thiel introduced onstage, a group of old-school financiers who are wary of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. His views, Thiel said, are what prevent bitcoin from being adopted by the mainstream. Put another way: Thiel believes they are preventing bitcoin from exponentially increasing in value, thereby preventing him and other bitcoiners from becoming exponentially richer.
peter thiel speaks on the bitcoin 2022 stage.
on a more practical level, miami provided people like josip rupena with an opportunity to showcase their new businesses and attract the attention of clients and investors. Rupena, a former Goldman Sachs trader and private wealth manager for Morgan Stanley, is the founder of Florida-based Milo. the new home lending business will provide cryptocurrency-backed home loans, something most mainstream banks won’t do at all, for rates of around 5.95% on a 30-year loan. (higher than the national average of 5.09%, but not surprising given the additional risk that crypto represents). milo recently raised a $17 million series a and plans to tolerate a substantial amount of crypto market volatility. will not require a borrower to replenish the cryptocurrency underlying a loan until it loses 65% of its initial value.
rupena is already thinking about the future. “When we issue a loan, we are starting a 30-year relationship with our clients. and they probably want other things from us too, right? it’s not just about houses,” she says. Soon, Rupena says, Milo intends to expand into car loans and credit cards as well.
In reality, however, bitcoin 2022 was one giant, city-wide party. Panels and talks were held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, blocks from the beach and amidst the area’s thriving mile-long bar scene. not that someone had to leave the place to get a drink. the center featured more than a dozen bars, each serving wine, beer, gin, vodka, and 12-year-old Scotch. the service started as soon as the conference opened around 10am. m. One morning, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez unveiled the Miami Bull, a statue of a bull that resembles a Transformers robot (cost: more than $250,000). The figure was intended both as a maximalist homage to New York City’s Wall Street bull and to drive its horns into the sides of Wall Street traditionalists who remain crypto skeptics.
Of course, there was also an all-day sound money fest. “I chose to do this because I believe in cryptocurrencies and I was honored that they thought of me,” says logic. The rapper has invested several million in bitcoin and ether, the second most valuable cryptocurrency, and a handful of blockchain startups. he and the other dozen artists received at least a partial payment in crypto. Logic considered taking the check from him entirely in virtual currency, before deciding against it. “We’re not yet in a totally cashless world,” he says.
The fiberglass and chrome figure in Miami weighs 3,000 pounds and is 11 feet tall.
Several startups hosted late-night parties after the conference concluded. To keep up to date and hopefully engage, attendees passed out google spreadsheets tracking the various parties.
one of the most coveted invitations was a soiree on thursday night at the versace mansion hosted by paxos, a new york city-based cryptocurrency brokerage. the event must have cost more than $100,000. It had several open bars, trays of hors d’oeuvres, a three-tiered table with lobster tails, crab legs, and shrimp, a large paella pan, towers of macarons, three large coffee pots alongside liquor bottles, and a station with nine varieties. of cohiba cigars.
Midway through the occasion, four young women in gold-sequined bathing suits climbed into the mansion’s ornately tiled pool, presumably the same one Gianni Versace swam in shortly before his 1997 assassination, and performed a series of aqua dance routines, drawing an ever-growing (and almost entirely male) audience on the poolside couches.
“how hot do you think the water is?” said one man to another.
“yes, do you think they are cold?” answered the other, not looking away from the performance.
Despite the week’s apparent expansion, bitcoin 2022 left several important realities unresolved. paid little heed to accounting for problems within the crypto industry, which remains an unregulated financial frontier populated by companies resisting self-control. another matter: bitcoin may be the original cryptocurrency with a market value of $1 trillion today, but it is far from the only cryptocurrency any longer, and far from the only successful example of a blockchain-based project. however, its official programming focused exclusively on bitcoin. It largely ignored the recent boom in ethereum blockchain and nfts-based projects, the digital collectibles that rose to prominence last year and formed a nearly $18 billion market last year.
For all its success, the conference could become stale almost as quickly as it became a must-attend event if it doesn’t recognize that attendees probably won’t mind hearing more than bitcoin from the stage.
Added to this is a growing fatigue among the crypto community, which finds itself classifying an increasing number of events. This included last February’s developer-focused ethdenver and nft-based conferences in los angeles (last month), miami (days before bitcoin 2022), and new york (june a few months from now).
This bored ape nft graffiti is painted on a wall in the wynwood neighborhood of miami, 20 minutes from where the bitcoin 2022 conference was held, clear evidence that the conference may want to expand its programming.
“There are so many events popping up and people are getting tired of them,” says cryptowhale, a pseudonymous investor (and popular twitter presence) who left bitcoin 2022. “People naturally just won’t want to show up. ”
the focus on bitcoin didn’t bother the several hundred people who attended another sub-event in miami last week at all, thank goodness for bitcoin. that conference lasted one day in a downtown theater, beginning with hymns and Christian ballads led by an acoustic guitarist.
It was put together by Jordan Bush, a 34-year-old missionary who runs a small Protestant church in Montevideo, Uruguay. he and the other speakers offered only what appeared to be the most minimal connection between god and bitcoin. (Bush says attendees didn’t expect him to deliver a lengthy one and innately understood it.) For the most part, thank goodness bitcoin seemed to act as an excuse for devoted and crypto-happy investors to connect with each other. but a financial point bush and the others clearly emphasized: you will not covet a meme coin. or buy other cryptocurrencies than bitcoin.
many of these tokens, bush says, are created with not very christian intentions. “They are speculative assets,” she says. “pump and dumps”.