The 2020 North American Bitcoin Conference: In-Depth Report

January 20, 2020 / by Zachary Mashiach

This is a first-person accountfrom our on-the-ground reporter at the 2020 North American Bitcoin Conference at the James L. Knight Center in Downtown Miami. The idea is to give those who did not attend and glimpse of the inner workings of a major crypto conference as well as some insights into the current state of the crypto space.

The experience begins with pulling up to the James L. Knight Center in an Uber, which is an ideal choice of transportation since the traffic and parking situation in downtown Miami is as hectic as it gets. That being said, it is a beautiful area, with towering multi-colored skyscrapers and pristine beaches only a few miles away. 

The Conference Goodies

After arriving, I went through registration and security and was handed a bag full of conference goodies. One of the most notable prizes was a beautiful physical Bitcoin (BTC) wallet created by Ballet, which is a company run by crypto influencer Bobby Lee, Founder of China’s first Bitcoin (BTC) exchange BTCC and the brother of Litecoin (LTC) creator Charlie Lee. Apparently this wallet comes with a mobile app that can store numerous crypto assets.

Another prize was the Bitcoin (BTC) socks. I will be wearing them all year, just like I’ve been wearing the socks from the 2019 conference almost every day this past year.

Once I finally got into the conference room there was coffee and tea, and the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) booth was handing out cliff bars which made for a solid breakfast. The Bitcoin Cash (BCH) people were also handing out scratch out tickets where you could win anywhere from $1 to $500 of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which was quite exciting. I ended up getting 5 tickets because they were quite generous with the tickets and won around $8, which would have been $5 but the price of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) increased significantly after they printed the scratch offs. That being said, someone out there won $500.

Also, I received an airdrop of 5,000 Miami Token 2020 and 500 Leaders of Education Adoption and Development (LEAD) tokens, although it is unclear if these will ever have value.

Other goodies at the conference included Bitcoin polo shirts, VeriBlock t-shirts, and Edge Wallet was giving out $3 of free cryptocurrency. The Barbados booth was holding a raffle to win a bottle of top-grade whiskey, in addition to giving out USB sticks and backpacks.

The Exhibit Room

The first room that I entered in the conference was the exhibit room, which was filled with booths representing various crypto-related projects. The Ballet wallet, the same people who handed out the physical Bitcoin wallets, were right near the front. Other booths included the Bitcoin Center Miami, BnkToTheFuture, VeriBlock, the Blockchain & Crypto Mining Association, Invest Barbados, BitAngels, HyperBlock, and several others.

There were a few crypto artists who had booths at the event, including the artist Fractal Encrypt who created the ‘Bitcoin Clock’, which we will deep dived in an upcoming Crypto.IQ article. The other two artists created numerous Bitcoin (BTC) related paintings. Notably, the artists were among the most successful people at the event and were making lots of sales.

In general, every facet of the crypto space was represented, including wallet technology, investors, marketing, mining, and projects involving various aspects of blockchain technology. Beyond the booths, there was an uncountable number of crypto influencers and professionals walking around. Overall, it was a unique, intriguing, and effective way of gaining an understanding of the current state of the crypto space while simultaneously providing ample opportunity to network.

That being said, even the dark underbelly of the crypto space was represented. Specifically, Crypto.com formerly called Monaco (MCO) as deep dived in a previous ‘War on Shitcoins’ article, had a booth. They were promising $50 for free and also a free alcoholic beverage when signing up for their Visa crypto debit card, and there was literally a bar placed a few feet from their booth.

I gave them a fair shot and tried signing up for the Visa card, and only after I downloaded the app did they mention that obtaining the Visa card costs 50 Monaco (MCO), which is around $250. This seems like a ripoff for a Visa card, which would be free from any other organization, like Square Cash for example.

I wonder how many people put in their full identification information before learning that it costs $250 to get the Visa card. Also, I cannot confirm or deny that the Visa cards even exist yet. People who invested in Monaco (MCO) and purchased the Visa cards have been waiting years to receive their card, even if they really are receiving them now.

In any case, other than the Monaco (MCO) booth, everything else in the exhibit room was kosher, and overall the exhibit room was a positive, friendly, and beneficial experience.

The Speakers

The next room in the conference was the speaker room, which was lit with neon blue and purple light, and there was a giant screen in the front. There were dozens of speakers across the course of the two-day conference, covering all facets of the crypto space.

Some of the more influential speakers included the Mayor of Miami, Bobby Lee, CEO of BnkToTheFuture Simon Dixon, CEO of Veriblock Justin Fisher, Genesis Mining Co-Founder Marco Streng, Brock Pierce, Raghav Chawla from Fidelity Investments, Marco Santori from Blockchain.com, Nick Spanos, BLOQ Co-Founder Matthew Roszak, Head of the Binance Charity Foundation Helen Hai, Adam Healy from Bakkt, Bitcoin Pioneer Charlie Shrem, Co-Founder of Tezos (XTZ) Kathleen Breitman, Co-Founder of the NEM Foundation Jeff McDonald, Hyperblock CEO Sean Walsh, and Tether (USDT) Co-Founder Craig Sellars.

The After Parties

One aspect of the conference which I did not experience was the afterparties, but my friend Space Cadet dived into the nightlife scene of the conference and went to several of the parties. Space Cadet reports that the atmosphere was quite friendly, with crypto and blockchain-oriented people talking in-depth about their projects and trying to help each other.

Notably, there was a party at the ‘Bitcoin Mansion’, which is supposedly the first mansion purchased with Bitcoin (BTC), and Space Cadet saw many crypto leaders there. There were also parties at the Wharf and the Clevelander, which are famous bars in Miami, as well as a party at the Bitcoin Center Miami which had an open bar and a delicious Spanish dinner called Paella. Beyond this, there were many other meetups. Basically, the options were endless for those who wanted to stay up all night and network.

The after parties were a great place for crypto enthusiasts from all walks of life to interact and network, and perhaps, this is one of the more significant benefits of the conference.

Overall, the 2020 North American Bitcoin Conference provided an excellent way to network and learn in person. This is something that is much needed in the crypto space since usually crypto enthusiasts are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. Ultimately, conferences like this help to enhance the crypto space since future crypto projects were likely born from the interactions that occurred.

On a final note, one noticeable difference between the 2019 and 2020 conferences was that the altcoin and initial coin offering (ICO) frenzy was absent. In 2019, ICO projects abounded at the conference, and everyone was talking about which altcoins were the best. In 2020 the focus was on building investment infrastructure and blockchain technology, with an almost total absence of altcoin discussion. In other words, the crypto space has matured and consolidated significantly in the past year, and the conference atmosphere reflected this.