• Conference organizer Bitcoin Magazine sold around 12,000 passes, but there are estimates that some 30,000 more flocked to Miami sans tickets
  • Die-hard fans were not concerned with the largest cryptocurrency’s recent selloff

Bitcoin enthusiasts descended upon Miami this past weekend for Bitcoin 2021, the largest bitcoin conference in the world. The two-day event, three-day for those willing to shell out an extra $14,000+ for a Whale Day pass, was the country’s first major conference since the start of the pandemic. 

Conference organizer Bitcoin Magazine sold around 12,000 passes, but there are estimates that some 30,000 more flocked to Miami sans tickets. 

The event featured all things familiar, and some not-so-familiar, to any trade show. Cheesy swag, including neon sunglasses and the more recently coveted hand sanitizer, littered the booths. Keynote speakers included Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Galaxy’s Mike Novogratz and legal scholar Nick Szabo. Panels focused on the history of money happened alongside discussions in defense of bitcoin ‘toxic maximalism.’ 

Among the more unusual sightings? A halfpipe, occasionally occupied by skateboarder Tony Hawk, sat outside the convention center in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Boxer Floyd Mayweather delivered a fireside chat. 

Tony Hawk's halfpipe sits empty at Bitcoin 2021.
Tony Hawk’s halfpipe sits empty at Bitcoin 2021.

After waiting in a mile-long line Friday morning to enter the venue, retail traders and crypto enthusiasts mingled with digital asset entrepreneurs and fund managers. Some sweated out the South Florida humidity in business casual, others opted for bathing suits. 

The booze was flowing, as was the lingo (HODL, stacking sats). Masks were few and far between, but thoughts on the conference overall were easy to come by.

“My number one impression, as a guy that maybe has a little more experience in various markets?” said trader and Bitcoin 2021 panelist Greg Foss. “I came away from there so energized after meeting all these young, 19 to 25 year-old kids that really want to make a difference. It was incredible.” 

Others however were taken aback by some of the more raunchy happenings. “F-ck the Fed” was a popular chant in the main stage room of the conference. “F-ck Elon” was arguably more popular. 

“This ‘bitcoin or nothing’ kind of vibe of and the whole ‘down with the Fed and fiat currency’ mentality, I think a little bit of that plays into the traditional media’s mockery of it,” said Adam Blumberg, co-founder of Interaxis and conference attendee. “Honestly, it makes not that much different than a cult. A cult of money.” 

Retail traders seemed to rule the crowd. Some crypto companies opted to send employees to Miami but forgoed buying them actual tickets to the event. Real deals happened at the cocktail parties and events hosted at Miami estates and on yachts, some said. 

Die-hard fans were not concerned with the largest cryptocurrency’s recent selloff. Bitcoin traded at around $37,000, down from its April high of $64,000, for the duration of the conference. Talk of buying the dip dominated any price-related discussion. 

Amid the absurdity of it all, there was genuine curiosity and excitement. One volunteer Foss spoke to flew from California on her own dime just to catch a glimpse of the action. There was a sense of euphoria among many as the idea they had so vehemently defended for so long finally became recognized.  

“This was a time for everyone to come together and congratulate each other and be very excited about this thing we believed in that everyone else mocked us for,” said Blumberg. “For the last 20 months, the only way you’ve interacted with people is over your computer in a very anonymous way, and now the world seems to be waking up to this idea that you’ve believed in from the start.”

The venue choice of Miami was not accidental. The South Florida city is quickly becoming known as America’s crypto hub. Exchange FTX recently took over naming rights of National Basketball Association team Miami Heat’s stadium, formerly known as American Airlines Arena. 

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins kicked off the second day of the conference, revealing her hope to build a “crypto-campus” for innovation and research in the city. Miami mayor Francis Suarez revealed major pro-bitcoin plans earlier this year. The city has put together a task force to research how Miami residents can use cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for taxes, fees and services. 

“Why do you bring in Tony Hawk and Floyd Mayweather? The reason is because it appeals to a lot of people in the world that maybe haven’t done the homework,” said Foss. “But within, you have Jeff Booth, Preston Pysh, Lynn Alden, really just exceptionally bright people combined with these other less experienced people. It all adds up to one big, beautiful community.”

Read more of our coverage from Bitcoin 2021 here.

  • Blockworks
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    Casey Wagner is a New York-based business journalist covering digital assets and macro economics. Prior to joining Blockworks, she reported on markets at Bloomberg News. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Media Studies.