Sunday, June 13

Thousands Descend on Miami to Glorify Bitcoin


MIAMI — There was money in the air. Buzzwords floated around, like NFT, BTD, blockchain, token. There was a frenzied energy.

And there was heat — a humid, sticky South Florida heat; the kind all the Californians and New Yorkers who moved to Miami during the pandemic’s winter doldrums were warned about. The kind generated by thousands upon thousands of people gathering to worship at the altar of cryptocurrencies.

Such was the vibe at Bitcoin 2021, an occasional gathering of digital currency enthusiasts run by a magazine named after the cryptocurrency. Last year’s event had been postponed. But on Friday and Saturday, at least 12,000 people descended on Miami to make up for lost time, flocking to the largest Bitcoin conference in the world and the first major in-person business conference since the pandemic began.

The exuberance of being in person, indoors, in a crowd for the first time in more than a year was electric. Everyone hugged, no one masked. The money zipped between digital wallets. The conference swag included neon fanny packs, festival bracelets and a Lamborghini car. The jargon — stablecoin, peer-to-peer, private key — flowed. So did the liquor.

For a few days, the city was a raging fireball of finance, technology and joyful anarchy, of unfathomable wealth and desperate striving. Bitcoin 2021 heralded the receding of the pandemic, with comfortingly familiar and mundane elements of a business conference: the branded plastic sunglasses, brightly colored sponsor booths, lanyards and panels. Some attendees wore business casual. Others looked ready for a music festival. One donned a furry rave bikini.

It was another sign that the often absurd world of digital currencies was inching its way toward mainstream acceptance, or at least mainstream curiosity. Since late last year, Bitcoin has been on a wild ride, setting price records. Even a dramatic plunge from a high of $64,000 in April to $36,000 now did not dampen spirits. They’re BTD — buying the dip. Wall Street bankers, institutional investors and Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, all came to Miami.

Mr. Suarez set a defiant tone. “I’m here to tell all the haters and all the doubters that this is not a moment, this is a movement,” he said. The crowd erupted in whistles and cheers.

Moishe Mana, the real estate mogul who owned the venue, walked around the crowded concourse of booths and crypto art with a small entourage. After working for years to bring companies, people and innovation to the city, he was basking in Miami’s ascent.

New York and San Francisco’s appeal was waning, Mr. Mana said. “Every city has its own golden age,” he added. “Nothing stays forever.”

Mr. Mana was not a big crypto guy, per se, but he recognized its power, comparing the devotion of its followers to a religion. “The more you fight religion, the more holy it becomes and the stronger the movement becomes,” he said.

After a year of isolation, it felt as if Twitter had come to life. But we were all there together, and the view was nice.



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