Reflections on Miami

Some thoughts from this past week's crypto conference in Miami
Jun 7, 20218 min read

Dear Bankless Nation,

Miami 2021 was everything that you would have expected it to be: a bunch of crypto people getting together for the first time in over a year and this time everyone’s net worth has 10x’d in value (give or take).

Crypto used to be an extremely conference-heavy industry. Since Crypto is inherently internet native, crypto conferences have allowed internet friends to become real friends, and are events that resemble festivals much more than they do professional networking events.

It’s been a long time since everyone in crypto got together, and that explains why an 8,000 person Bitcoin Conference turned into 30,000 people flying into Miami for a seemingly endless number of satellite events.

Now that conferences are starting up again, and also now that our industry has grown up a lot…now it’s the time to get real.

It’s Time to Get Real

The goal of crypto is to redefine…basically everything. That means, at some point, the virtual industry of crypto changes the physical reality of the world around it. Not just updating the state of the EVM, but updating the physical atoms and matter in the world around us.

Bitcoin is now the 8th most valuable asset in the world; Ethereum is 27th. Now that COVID is over, and the desire for physical events returns, it’s time to get real. All these conversations about a ‘super-cycle’ or ‘crypto is mainstream now’ are implying that the physical world is about to become impacted by the presence of crypto-networks.

The Miami Heat arena is now named after a crypto bank—FTX arena is an example of what is to come. If this is the cycle that crypto ‘goes mainstream’, that means this industry goes from ideating on how it will change the world, to actually making the world change.

FTX Could Be the First Crypto Company with Sports Arena Name Rights. They  Won't Be the Last. - Boardroom
No more American Airlines area…it’s FTX arena now. The crypto industry is starting to leave its mark in the physical world.

Outsiders are paying attention to this industry now, trying to figure out what is real, versus what is unsustainable.

Has Maximalism Jumped the Shark?

There were some things out of the Bitcoin conference that I found pretty disturbing.

Max Keiser yelling “F*ck Elon, we’re not selling” on a stage that is reminiscent of the infamous Bitconnect meme. Max gave people ‘Bitcoin baptisms’ and shouted in an interview because he has all the bitcoins, he can write all the laws.

It wasn’t just Max.

On a panel event titled Toxic Maximalism: A Feature, Not A Bug, it was claimed that if you are against Bitcoin Toxicity, you are against freedom. Erik Voorhees, one of my favorite Bitcoiners, was having none of that. On the next panel, he said “that’s some bullshit” in response to toxic maximalism.

Sadly, the crowd boo’d Erik.

To me, this is a cause for concern. The negative crowd response to Erik Voorhees saying that “you don’t need to be toxic to promote Bitcoin” illustrates that the Bitcoin community may have hit its limits to scale. Having an exclusive, toxic-first mindset as a community turns people off the asset it represents.

Some people think that Bitcoin and its community are separate. I don’t. I believe crypto networks are fundamentally based on people, and that they are reflections of the values of the people that compose them.

Layer 0 is people.

If we want to scale this industry out to the globe, it’s not going to be with a crypto-network whose community is promoting toxicity and bitcoin baptisms.

The Charts

Here are three charts, each starting at the beginning of April.

Neither BTC/USD or ETH/USD looks overly exciting to me, but it’s the ETH/BTC chart that I think is really telling. ETH/BTC is almost back to it’s old highs, before ETH dropped from $4,300 to $1,700.

ETH has recovered stronger and faster than BTC, illustrating that there is still people who are deciding that they are over-allocated to BTC and under-allocated to ETH.

BTC/USD looking bad. ETH/USD looking meh. ETH/BTC looking STRONG.

Ultimately, charts, narratives, and current events all dance around each-other, each one trying to find truth in the noise. There’s been a growing conversation of the unsustainable nature of Bitcoin as a technology, but I think we are also seeing the Bitcoin community run up against its limits to growth.

As a social movement, the culture inspired by Bitcoin maximalists, which frequently find them on stage at Bitcoin events, is not one that can scale to the whole world. This is the difference between a globally accepted religion, versus a fringe cult.

Bitcoin leadership has devolved into whoever can chant the Bitcoin Gospel the loudest, as that is what gets the maximum amount of engagement from the Bitcoin crowds—like a snake biting its tail. The good news: Bitcoin continues to produce blocks every 10 minutes. The bad news: a fringe group of maximalists continues to alienate their community from mainstream legitimacy.

So 8,000 Bitcoiners attended Bitcoin 2021, but over 30,000 people descended into Miami last weekend. Where’d the other 22,000 go? In a strange twist of fate Bitcoin 2021 became Ethereum’s largest meetup ever. The Bitcoin 2021 conference was a single central event, whereas the DeFi, NFT, and Ethereum events, parties, and meetups were spread out, without one single canonical place or conference track.

There’s an analog here between the monolithic nature of the Bitcoin community, versus Ethereum’s decentralized app layer. It wasn’t Ethereum, the EF, or Consensys that coordinated Ethereum events; it was funded and orchestrated by app-layer projects and funds that invested in ETH and Ethereum’s app layer. (Note: I’m generalizing a bit, there were non-Ethereum events too, but I think this is directionally correct.)

Bitcoin 2021 was the world’s largest event since COVID shut everything down. To the onlookers that are trying to get a grip on this industry, the behavior of Bitcoin maximalists was a PR disaster for the asset, which is already struggling to rebrand itself as green technology.

I want Bitcoin to be better, so that I can be more aligned with it and help promote it to the world, but the Maximalists who are promoting toxicity as necessary are really getting in the way. Bitcoin would do better for itself if it elevated a more identifiable cohort of leaders who are more fitting to steward the technology into the mainstream.

Side Note: Bitcoin Art

My favorite thing about the Bitcoin conference was by far the art gallery.

The sophistication and depth of Bitcoin art is extremely impressive. You can get a taste for it here. I think my biggest positive take-away from the Bitcoin conference is that Bitcoiners understood the importance of instantiating cultural values earlier than anyone else in this industry, and they are pioneering the world of real art.

The kind of art that you can actually touch and put in your home. As this industry comes to change the world around us, having crypto-art will be a fun way to revel in this global changes.

- David

For a brief moment in time, half of DeFi was centralized on a single yacht.
Not only is Charlie Noyes saving us from MEV, he’s also throwing down some sick beats
The Bankless Squad at the DeFi Yacht Party (plus Jeremy Musighi from Balancer)
Becoming friends with past Bankless guests

Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.

Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. Additionally, the Bankless writers hold crypto assets. See our investment disclosures here.

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