A pulsating beat was one of the constants at this week’s Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami.
A pulsating beat was one of the constants at this week’s Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami. That along with unlimited parties and testimonials about the life-changing powers of the cryptocurrency.
After two pandemic-ravaged years, Bitcoiners declared they’re back in a big way, with more the 25,000 attending the extravaganza to celebrate the original digital asset as well as each other. So many parties had been set up that an Excel listing many of the soirées was passed around so attendees could plan accordingly.
At the conference itself, companies showing off their wares amid a sea of exhibits were surrounded by physical manifestations of the excitement for the crypto universe — literally. A giant moon hung over the space to remind everyone of the heights they were striving for. And if that weren’t enough, an enormous Mars hung further afield. The message: shoot for the moon, the opportunities are boundless.
Crypto dignitaries, including Michael Novogratz and Peter Thiel, gathered for panels in colossal rooms pumped around the clock with fog machines and dance music. Lasers of purples and greens skittered across the floor. A special section was reserved for so-called whales — these were the VIPs who got to sit on chairs and couches propped up on risers, levitating above the main crowd.
“This is total madness,” said Marc LoPresti, managing director of The Strategic Funds. “The who’s who of the blockchain industry is here. It’s almost too big.”
In the years since Covid first broke out, the crypto industry has exploded — companies have sprouted and grown and there’s more money than ever sloshing around for projects. Bitcoin has surged more than fourfold since before the pandemic, even with it down almost 40% since setting a record high in November.
This year’s the first since the pandemic started that many of those who have been part of the growth process are able to gather, and their zeal has rippled through the conference, said Ophelia Snyder, co-founder and president of ETF issuer 21Shares.
“The industry is still at a stage where we can’t believe it,” Snyder said. 21Shares has expanded its workforce to 150 from 25 during the period and assets under management have ballooned to $2.5 billion from $25 million, Snyder said.
Getting around the convention required dexterity — one had to dodge swells of crowds and models-for-hire who were handing out branded crypto-company sunglasses. It was easy, also, to get distracted by the giant monitor that automatically gave everyone laser eyes as they walked by.
The expo floor, meanwhile, was buzzing with the vibe of an amusement park. A sea of company booths encircled the perimeter; a crypto museum exhibited artworks; vendors peddling home-made products, including artworks of the Bitcoin logo, stood off in one corner. A nearly-40-foot volcano greeted visitors as they walked in, a colossal monument to El Salvador’s so-called volcano Bitcoin bond. And perpetually, the moon hovered above the crowd.
“It’s electric — there’s so much energy. You work in the trenches every day and then you come here and see it’s actually happening,” said Bobby Zagotta, CEO of Bitstamp USA. “If you weren’t believing before, you come here and you become a believer.”
That’s the kind of fervor attendees brought with them — a love for Bitcoin that borders on religiosity. The crypto space famously has a rabid fan base, a cohort of true believers who see Bitcoin as the salve for the world’s biggest problems. It’s a ride-or-die group whose proverbs include “Bitcoin is life” and “Bitcoin is the future.” Its preachers were there, on the stages, in the break-rooms, at the after-parties.
“There’s this system of belief called Bitcoin maximalism and it’s a bit religious,” said Peter Smith, CEO of Blockchain.com, noting he didn’t consider himself one. “You definitely see a lot of Bitcoin-maximalist speakers on stage and they are there to preach the gospel. It’s super intense.”
At the convention, it was a setup by novice crypto exchange Bullish in the middle of the exhibit center that drew a lot of attention: a mechanical bull, clad in a spotted calfskin, gyrated jerkily from left to right. The bull itself was another demonstration of the ethos — the future is bright. Anyone was welcome to ride it, but whoever proved to be the longest holdout won the ultimate prize: a single Bitcoin.
“This is crypto, we’re at Bitcoin Miami — it’s all about eye-catching,” said Chris Briseno, head of marketing at Bullish and the man behind the setup. “The sky is the limit — there’s no holds barred here.”
Miami is looking to transform itself into a crypto hub. The city’s mayor, Francis Suarez, who takes his paychecks in Bitcoin, has fully embraced digital assets and all their tentacles, hoping that Florida’s pleasant climate will continue to draw in entrepreneurs.
Those packing up on Friday afternoon were already looking forward to next year’s gathering. Some expect it to be bigger, glitzier. Either way, “the toothpaste is out of the tube — it’s here,” said Bruce Fenton, a Bitcoin advocate who’s running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire. “You can’t uninvent Bitcoin.”