Tens of thousands of visitors came to Wynwood for the 2021 Bitcoin Conference this past weekend. It was initially set for Los Angeles but was moved due to California’s continued state of emergency. Masks were not required at the conference and neither was proof of vaccination.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez opened the event; he’s been a huge proponent of the city’s emergence as a tech hub. Suarez brought a resolution to the city commission allowing residents to pay taxes in bitcoin and city of Miami employees could be paid in the digital currency. The conference was held at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center, owned by billionaire real estate developer Moishe Mana.
“You see it’s not a wham bam thank you ma’am [event]. It’s a process, we have been building in Wynwood day by day, event by event. It’s progress. It’s evolution. It’s not that we did one event and everyone is going to come. We have been working on it for 12 years, what you see here,” he told Sundial senior producer Chris Remington.
Among the main speakers at the event was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who discussed the potential for Bitcoin to be used as a more stable currency in the developing world. He and rapper Jay Z recently launched an endowment with 500 Bitcoin to grow the digital currency in Africa and China.
“Go to Nigeria for one day and see the struggle that people have to put up with their government and with their money,” said Dorsey during a panel with Joni Madison, the Chief Operations Officer for the Human Rights Foundation.
James Blackburn was among the conference attendees who saw Dorsey’s speech and was inspired. He’s a visiting college student from Chicago interested in the potential for cryptocurrency.
“Most people at this conference believe Bitcoin is monetary freedom for the world,” he said, while catching some fresh air outside the busy conference auditorium.
While the conference was mostly filled with investors, politicians and celebrities bullish about Bitcoin’s future, a number of the panel conversations addressed the criticisms that the cryptocurrency faces. Bitcoin mining, the computational process by which new bitcoin is uncovered and made available, is a high intensive energy process that’s being done primarily out of industrial-sized server farms in China.
Steve Lee, Google’s former project manager, discussed how Bitcoin could help lead a move towards renewable energy, given that the demand on power grids is specific to certain times of day. Bitcoin mining doesn’t need to be done during peak hours and could use excess energy from wind and solar during the evening and early morning hours.
It’s unclear whether the Bitcoin Conference will be held in Miami again in the future. Conference attendees waited for hours the first day to get in, with a line stretching into the complex for more than a dozen city blocks.
Many on Twitter compared the logistical issues it to the infamous Fyre Festival, given the high cost of admission and sleek social media advertising. But given the move of Blockchain.com’s headquarters to Miami, the renaming of the AmericanAirlines Arena to FTX Arena and the interest of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, it’s clear that enthusiasm around cryptocurrency in the Magic City will remain for a while.