Thousands of cryptocurrency enthusiasts are flocking to Miami as the city builds its reputation as one of the top places to develop blockchain technology despite its underdog status.
Dozens of companies are using the Bitcoin 2022 conference, which runs Wednesday through Friday, as a place to network, pitch ideas and share announcements for the industry and beyond.
New York City and Silicon Valley continued to lead the way 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 the companies have raised more than $760 million in funding, according to market research firm CB Insights.
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX purchased the naming rights to the NBA arena in downtown Miami last year, replacing American Airlines. The biggest cryptocurrency company to move to Miami so far, Blockchain.com, will house 200 employees at a location in the trendy neighborhood of Wynwood, where other tech companies and investors are also settling in.
“Wynwood really has that kind of spirit that you look for when a new tech industry is built,” said Blockchain.com CEO and co-founder Peter Smith, comparing it to San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and Brooklyn. , in New York. “Ultimately, you want to be with the other tech companies.”
Many cite a welcoming atmosphere cultivated by local officials, most notably Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has garnered national attention by attracting tech investment and becoming one of the United States’ crypto-friendly mayors.
Others note that Miami and Florida are business-friendly and have remained open during the pandemic, making it more attractive as a place where people can work remotely.
“It’s possible to move to a place where you can buy a house and see the sun every day,” Smith said.
All this enthusiasm stands in stark contrast to bitcoin’s difficult year. On the financials side, the cryptocurrency hit a high of $67,553.95 in November, just before nearly halving in late January; remains down approximately 30% since that November high. Bitcoin is also largely absent from many of the hottest trends in cryptocurrencies, such as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which purportedly offer a way to auction off “unique” copies of digital art and other cyber objects.
More broadly, critics question the assumptions underlying the crypto technology’s alleged value and utility, with some comparing the hype and so far unfulfilled promises of blockchain technologies to a Ponzi scheme that benefits early entrants but leaves everyone else in trouble. .
As Miami aims to attract more investment into cryptocurrency projects, Bitcoin 2022 organizers say at least 75 companies will make announcements at the conference.
Last year, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele made international news at the event, revealing via video that his country would be the first to make cryptocurrency legal tender. Bukele will be at the conference this year.
One of the most anticipated announcements may come from 27-year-old Jack Mallers, CEO of the bitcoin payment app Strike, who worked with the Bukele government on the national launch of bitcoin.
Mallers also partnered with Twitter to sync their app with the social network to make it possible to send digital money as “tips” without needing a bank like Cash App and PayPal, demonstrating in a video how he sent $10 to a man. at a Salvadoran Starbucks.
“Why would anyone use Western Union again? When you take one of the biggest social internet networks in the world, you combine it with the best open currency network in the world,” he says in the video posted to YouTube. “Western Union, pawn to E4. What’s your move?”
It remains to be seen what the effort will yield in the future. South Florida saw its population decline by more than 18,000 people between July 2020 and July 2021. And critics fear the city lacks a top-notch university that can build a workforce to make businesses thrive, like Bay Area and New York.
But Miami entrepreneur Josip Rupena, who will speak about his cryptocurrency mortgage startup at the conference, said he will give the effort a few years.
Rupena’s company, called Milo, has received $24 million in venture funding from investors to become a lender for people who have made considerable digital wealth but don’t want to convert cryptocurrencies 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 are really a lot of smart and capable people here. It’s great that we can amplify that message,” Rupena said.
Associated Press writer David Hamilton contributed to this San Francisco story.
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