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Sensemaker audio

A crypto carnival

A crypto carnival

What a Miami convention hall packed with 12,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts tells us about the cult of crypto


transcript

Hi, I’m Claudia – and this is Sensemaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

Today, what a Florida convention hall of 12,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts tells us about the cult of crypto. 

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“I believe that there’s going to be another cryptocurrency that’s going to be just as large as Bitcoin one day [booing]… It’s ok. That’s no different from Uber and Lyft [more booing].”

Floyd Mayweather at the Miami Bitcoin conference

It was Friday afternoon – and the crowd had the boxer Floyd Mayweather on the ropes.

Their one-two punch: don’t undermine Bitcoin, and certainly don’t do it here.

Over the weekend, thousands of the cryptocurrency’s biggest fans descended on a hot and humid Miami.

They put on their lanyards and packed themselves into a giant air-conditioned warehouse.

They were here for Bitcoin and only evangelists were welcome. Some pretty big ones took to the stage.

Jack Dorsey suggested he’d be working on Bitcoin if he wasn’t busy being the CEO of Twitter.

Tony Hawk compared skaters to Bitcoin enthusiasts, then went outside and did some tricks on a halfpipe.

And the president of El Salvador, appearing via videolink, taught Floyd Mayweather a thing or two about how to please a crowd…

“I will send to Congress a bill that will make Bitcoin a legal tender in El Salvador. In the short term this will generate jobs and help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy [drowned out by cheers].”

President of El Salvador at the Miami Bitcoin conference

So what was the Bitcoin 2021 conference all about? 

Was it just a gathering of crypto nerds kicking off a summer of freedom the only way they know how? 

Or does it tell us something bigger about the road that Bitcoin – and its worshippers – are on?

“Welcome all of you to the city of Miami, to Bitcoin 2021, the largest Bitcoin conference in the history of the planet.”

Francis Suarez at the Miami Bitcoin conference

Miami, known for spring break, Art Deco architecture, and the Cuban sandwich, wasn’t chosen by accident.

Their mayor, a 43-year-old Republican called Francis Suarez, owns Bitcoin… and loves Bitcoin.

“Well I’m here to tell all the haters and all the doubters that this is not a moment, this is a movement.”

Francis Suarez at the Miami Bitcoin conference

He kicked off the conference by declaring that the days of a currency tied to a central bank are over.

“Because in this city, we truly understand what it means to be the capital of capitals. It means to be the capital of Bitcoin.”

Francis Suarez at the Miami Bitcoin conference

And there’s another reason why Miami was a great location for the conference.

It’s nicknamed the Magic City, because it grew so quickly – as if by magic.

And, at least in the eyes of its supporters, there’s a little bit of that magic in Bitcoin. 

A decade or so ago the cryptocurrency was basically worthless: 10,000 Bitcoin would only get you a couple of Papa John’s pizzas.

“I just told people I wanted a pizza and I want to pay with Bitcoin. I don’t want a gift card, I don’t want some weird exchange. I want to give you Bitcoin, and you give me pizza.”

Man who bought a pizza with 10,000 Bitcoin

Now a single Bitcoin is worth around £26,000.

If you had to pick a single word to sum up the Bitcoin conference, it would be “hype”.

Because the event was oversold, thousands of people queued outside for hours in the searing summer heat.

And inside, well… everyone was on the Bitcoin train.

If you had some, you were going to get a lot richer.

“If you own a Bitcoin today, you will be a millionaire in the future. For sure. Congratulations.”

Cameron Winklevoss at the Miami Bitcoin conference

And if you didn’t, well, now’s a good chance to buy because the price is down.

“Of course, there are still unresolved issues relating to regulation and how governments will formulate policy without controlling currencies. And those issues, I am confident, will work themselves out. But in the end there’s only one thing to do…. Buy the dip.”

Francis Suarez at the Miami Bitcoin conference

The power of positive thinking was all around the Miami convention hall, and for good reason.

For Bitcoin to go to the moon, people need to believe the hype. 

And that’s what the conference was about: making clear that there’s only one crypto show in town, Bitcoin, and that you really want to be part of it.

Maybe the people who booed Floyd Mayweather are really passionate about the financial freedom promised by Bitcoin. 

Or maybe they just don’t want one of the world’s biggest celebs – wearing the t-shirt of a rival cryptocurrency – stealing Bitcoin’s rocket fuel.

On Thursday, after Elon Musk suggested that he’d split up with Bitcoin with a broken heart emoji on Twitter, the cryptocurrency’s value dropped by 4 per cent.

“We’re not selling!!!! We’re not selling!!!!”

Max Keiser at the Miami Bitcoin conference

The Bitcoin conference was big, weird and wonderful, and deliberately so.

The more people who want to live in the magic city of crypto, the more chance that one day it will actually come about. And, if it does, the folks at the Miami Bitcoin conference will be living like kings.

But there’s a risk too. People have spent a lot of money on Bitcoin, hoping that one day it’ll be worth a lot more. For these people, it’s Bitcoin or bust.

Today’s story was written and produced by Xavier Greenwood.

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