Thousands of crypto enthusiasts flock to Miami as the city builds its reputation as one of the hottest places to develop blockchain technology despite his underdog status.
Dozens of companies are using the Bitcoin 2022 conference taking place Wednesday through Saturday as a place to network, pitch ideas and share announcements with the industry and beyond.
New York City and Silicon Valley continued to lead in funding raised by blockchain startups in 2021, with $6.5 billion and $3.9 billion. But Miami is now tied with Los Angeles, where companies raised more than $760 million in funding, according to market research firm CB Insights.
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX bought the naming rights to the NBA arena in downtown Miami last year, replacing American Airlines. The largest cryptocurrency company to move to Miami so far, Blockchain.com, will house 200 employees at a location in the trendy Wynwood district, where other tech firms and investors are also setting up shop.
“Wynwood really has that kind of spirit that you look for when building a new tech sector,” said Peter Smith, CEO and co-founder of Blockchain.com, comparing it to San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and New York City’s Brooklyn. “Ultimately, you want to be with the other tech companies.”
Many cite a welcoming environment cultivated by local officials, most notably Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has garnered national attention by attracting investment in technology and becoming one of the America’s crypto-friendly mayors.
Others point out that both Miami and Florida are business-friendly and have remained open during the pandemic, making them more attractive as places where people can work remotely.
“It’s hard to deny that this is an incredible opportunity for businesses to come here and build their project in crypto,” said John Bartleman, CEO of TradeStation, a Plantation, Florida-based multi-asset broker.
Bartleman’s company commissioned an 11-foot (3-meter) statue of a robot-like bull that is meant to emulate the “Charging Bull” of Wall Street. The artwork was unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Suarez to a cheering crowd gathered to kick off the conference in Miami Beach.
“Welcome to the future of finance,” Suarez said. “I give you the Miami bull!”
All of this enthusiasm stands in stark contrast to Bitcoin’s rough year. On the financial side, the cryptocurrency peaked at $67,553.95 in November, just before falling by almost half in late January; it remains about 30% down from that November high. Bitcoin is also largely absent from many of the most popular trends in crypto, such as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which supposedly offer a way to auction off “one-of-a-kind” copies of digital art and other cyber memorabilia.
More broadly, critics question the assumptions underlying crypto technology’s stated value and utility, with some comparing the hype and hitherto unrealized promises of blockchain technologies to a Ponzi scheme that benefits early entrants but leaves everyone else in the lurch.
and aand cryptocurrency and NFT-related scams are generating caution among some consumers.
dozens of companies
As Miami aims to attract more investment for cryptocurrency projects, Bitcoin 2022 organizers say at least 75 companies will make announcements at the conference.
Last year, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, made international headlines at the event, revealing via video that his country would be the first to make cryptocurrencies legal tender. Bukele will be at the conference this year.
One of the most anticipated announcements may come from Jack Mallers, 27, CEO of bitcoin payment app Strike, who worked with the Bukele government on the national launch of bitcoin.
Mallers also partnered with Twitter to sync his app with the social network to make it possible to send digital money as “tips” without the need for a bank like Cash App and PayPal, demonstrating in a video how he sent $10 to a man at a Starbucks. Salvadoran. .
“Why would anyone ever use Western Union again? When you take one of the world’s largest internet social networks, you combine it with the world’s best open currency network,” he says in the video posted on YouTube. “Western Union, pawn to E4. What’s your move?”
It remains to be seen what the effort will produce in the future. South Florida saw its population decline by more than 18,000 people between July 2020 and July 2021. And critics worry the city doesn’t have a top-tier university that can generate a workforce to make businesses prosper. , as do the Bay Area and New York.
But Miami entrepreneur Josip Rupena, who will speak about his crypto mortgage startup at the conference, said push for a few years.
Rupena’s company, called Milo, received $24 million in venture funding from investors to become a lender for people who have amassed considerable digital wealth but don’t want to convert crypto into US dollars to buy a home.
“For the first time, I think we have a platform, and a national platform, to tell others that there really are a lot of smart, capable people here. It’s great that we can amplify that message,” Rupena said.