A recap of what went down at the flagship Bitcoin Miami 2023 conference.
It's May in balmy Miami, and that means Bitcoin 2023 is in town (well and those NBA playoffs as well!). The world's largest Bitcoin conference hosted its 2023 edition at the Miami Beach Convention Center for a final time last week. After 3 years in Florida, it’s moving to Nashville in 2024. The conference welcomed the Bitcoin faithful from May 18 to 20, in the latest bid to dispel the Bitcoin winter gloom for good.
The next presidential hopeful, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., , was among the notable speakers at the event this year. Best-selling author Michael Lewis of The Big Short, Moneyball and The Blind Side was also present. U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry and presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Tulsi Gabbard also attended the event.
Bitcoin heavyweights in attendance included Michael Saylor, Adam Back, Samson Mow, Jack Mallers, Caitlin Long, Robert Breedlove, Dan Held, and recent convert David Marcus, who graced the Nakamoto and mining stages to dissect Bitcoin’s biggest pain points and rally the masses.
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Thursday's Industry Day was a rather muted affair this year. There was a noticeable decrease in turnout compared to 2022, not only in attendance but also in (mainstream) star power, when the likes of Serena Williams and Jordan Peterson shared their 2 satoshis worth at the Bitcoin event last year.
It served as an overdue autopsy, with various panelists dissecting last year's FTX meltdown, intense regulatory scrutiny in the US, as well as a renewed emphasis on the importance of self-custodying your Bitcoin holdings.
Several engaging talks on the main Nakamoto stage covered all corners of crypto. From why we need Bitcoin in the face of CBDCs and AI, to regulators, Bitcoin NFTs, TradFi, greener mining and so on.
One notable session, "Boom to Bust: Wall Street & FTX," featured Jan van Eck and Eric Donovan. They explored the relationship between the financial industry and the now-defunct exchange, and the lessons it holds for investors.
The panel "Fed vs Financial System '' brought together Caitlin Long, Miles Paschine, Ram Ahluwalia, and Mark Connors. They analyzed the complex dynamics between the Federal Reserve and the financial system.
Other discussions centered around eco-friendly advances in Bitcoin mining, the renewed interest in self-custody, and combating anti-crypto sentiment. Frank Holmes and Andy Long shared insights on mining during the "Mining Stage" panel. Matt Odell provided a comprehensive Bitcoin 101 session, emphasizing the importance of self-custody. Additionally, experts like David Zell, Perianne Boring and Mina Khattak discussed strategies for combating regulatory obstacles in the "Fighting the Anti-Crypto Army" panel.
General Attendance Day 1
After a slow Industry Day on Thursday, Friday saw a sizable uptick in attendance. A solid turnout of visitors came to listen to and interact with hundreds of speakers, Bitcoin proponents, and projects during General Attendance Day 1.
Highlights included pro-Bitcoin regulation talks by Democratic Party hopefuls, Arthur Hayes’ interview with “The Big Short” author Michael Lewis, the big Ordinals debate, Jack Mallers’ Strike unveiling and more.
Saylor On Ordinals
Bitcoin’s biggest evangelist, Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, continues to accumulate Bitcoin over the long term with little regard for short-term fluctuations. He put in a long day in the service of the world's leading cryptocurrency.
The tech billionaire spent several exhausting hours in the media room at the tail end of the day, where he conducted many in-depth interviews and waxed lyrical about the role of Bitcoin in the face of inflation, authoritarian regimes, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Oh, and network congestion caused by BRC20 and Ordinals transactions.
On the latter, Saylor remained neutral, stating that he neither endorsed the likes of Ordinals nor wanted it censored.
He believes that the entire discussion of ordinal inscriptions is important to Bitcoin for two reasons.
1) For Bitcoin to achieve long-term success, the Bitcoin miners must be successful.
2) For companies, governments and individuals to adopt Bitcoin, it is necessary to develop applications on layer two and layer three.
If one were to discourage application developments, it would make it more difficult to scale and would also harm the Bitcoin mining network, where transaction revenue has to grow faster than the hash rate for the network to grow .
Election 2024 Candidates Champion Bitcoin’s Cause
In their talks, Kennedy and Gabbard highlighted Bitcoin’s values and importance as a tool against governmental overreach. They explained that it will help to combat enhanced surveillance and financial control, facilitated by CBDCs and artificial intelligence (AI).
They criticized US regulators' hostile climate for crypto companies and investors, such as the 30% Bitcoin mining tax. Kennedy in particular laid out a strong manifesto in which he pledged to ensure Bitcoin stays the global hub of crypto. He aims to do this by defending the right to self-custody and run home nodes of Bitcoin, ensuring the neutrality of industry energy regulations, and even reviewing whether the likes of Ross Ulbricht should be pardoned if they’re victims of an anti-crypto crackdown.
“We broke Bitcoin”: Bitcoin Ordinals Debate Takes Center Stage
The Big Bitcoin Ordinals Debate brought together experts to discuss the future of Bitcoin. It delved into the implications of ordinals, which have split the Bitcoin community into smaller factions. Those that embrace BRC20 see ordinals’ extended use cases for BTC. But, others see them as an attack on the world’s biggest cryptocurrency due to the network congestion and fee spikes they bring with them.
Source: Bitcoin Magazine Youtube
Bitcoin purists and the new Ordinals and BRC20 rebel alliance clashed on the Nakamoto stage Friday afternoon.
Udi Wertheimer and Eric Walls of Taproot Wizards, sporting cheap wizard outfits and beards, shared the stage with Spiral’s Matt Corallo, a Bitcoin Core contributor, and masked independent writer Shinobi Monkey. Things got off to a predictable start with Shinobi getting called a “Blockchain Karen” by Wertheimer after saying ordinals were an attack on Bitcoin that originated out of the Bitcoin SV camp.
During the often lighthearted and technical discussion, the expert panelists explored whether ordinals pose a threat to Bitcoin, and the need to distinguish between user behavior and the underlying protocol. The debate also touched upon different approaches to tokenization, such as counterparty tokens, and covered the efficiency of protocols and trade-offs involved, especially with BRC20.
Arthur Hayes Interviews Michael Lewis
During a fireside chat, Arthur Hayes, founder of BitMEX, interviewed Michael Lewis, the bestselling author known for books like "Moneyball" and "The Big Short."
Lewis drew attention in the crypto community after spending time with Sam Bankman-Fried for research on his next book on the FTX collapse.
Lewis expressed he’s intrigued by the crypto space and referred to it as "Financial Kanye." He criticized the persistence of financial intermediaries in the banking system, noting that they have found ways to rig the system and take unnecessary rents. Lewis expressed hope for a financial revolution through DeFi. He also speculated on US regulators' slow response to bail out banks connected to crypto during the recent liquidity crisis.
Mallers’ Strike Expands to 65 countries and Adds Lightning Features
Jack Mallers, CEO of Strike, announced that his Bitcoin payments company Strike has expanded to 65 countries. It would also be moving its global headquarters to El Salvador, as US crypto firms are getting out to friendlier regulatory pastures.
The expansion allows users to send and receive money instantly using the Lightning Network, catering to the requests of users. The update also introduces the ability to receive funds in U.S. dollar equivalents, including USDT, and a revamp of the app's user interface and logo.
During his speech at Bitcoin 2023, Mallers emphasized the company's wider vision, aiming to provide a reliable service for Bitcoin adoption and a unique brand identity. Mallers highlighted the company's responsiveness to user feedback and expressed their commitment to being an exceptional global money app.
Saturday: Day 2 General Attendance
The final day of Bitcoin Miami 2023 delivered several strong talks revolving around Bitcoin’s current and future use cases. It also covered challenges in an ever-evolving broader technological, investing and regulatory landscape.
Notable talks include The Art of Bitcoin Banking panel with Caitlin Long, Obi Nwosi (Fedi) and Casa’s Jameson Loop, while Adamant Research’s Tuur Demeester pondered if “AI Dream of Electric Bitcoin.”
Wertheimer was on again in the Transaction Censorship panel with Nick Hansen (Luxor) and Bitcoin Magazine’s Craig Deutsch. The discussion then shifted to global with Zoltan Pozcar (Credit Suisse)’s talk on Geo Politics and Bitcoin. Following that, El Salvador government member Max Keiser explained the plot behind Super-HyperBitcoinization to Stacy Herbert of the Bitcoin Office.
After lunch, Lyn Alden and Dylan LeClair spoke on Lightning for Businesses and Steady Lads.
The 2023 edition finally concluded with a short but good one: The Biggest Bulls. The old and new guard of Bitcoin, Adam Back of Blockstream and Strike’s Jack Mallers espoused on the value of Bitcoin, with the organizer’s Matt Odell moderating.
Asked at what price he would sell his BTC, Mallers made it clear that only health-related expenses would separate him from his satoshis.
“... the only thing that I mentally compartmentalize to reference how to price this thing is how much I value my life."
Exhibition Hall Highlights
Of course, Bitcoin Miami wouldn’t be the same without some extravagance.
The Bitcoin Bazaar market provided plenty of Bitcoin in-jokes, cool stuff and not-so-subtle digs at the wider crypto space, with everything from Bitcoin panties, shitcoin toilet to Bitcoin children’s books.
Attendees could also ride a mechanical bull to win 1 BTC, play a cornhole competition or kick a soccer ball, or simply gawk at a Bitcoin DeLorean car straight out of Back to the Future.
The Ordinals Alley by Gamma provided strong visual energy to the event, with dozens of eye-catching art pieces adorning temporary walls and many sold for auction.
This scene seems likely to continue to explode in the coming year, and with the independent event Ordinals2023 running simultaneously in Miami this year.
Bitcoin Week wrapped up in Miami on Bitcoin Pizza Day. It is the industry’s Thanksgiving, with a couple of small events to celebrate Laszlo Hanyecz’s 10,000 BTC sacrifice.
Last year saw a staggering 35,000 visitors flock to the event on the back of the 2021 bull run. The conference, organized by BTC Inc. and Bitcoin Magazine's owners BTC Media, LLC, only drew an estimated 15,000 visitors this year. Factors such as the ongoing crypto winter, Bitcoin market doldrums, and steep ticket prices all drove down attendance.
The 3-day event remains a necessary staple on the crypto calendar. It serves as a platform for passionate discussions about the impact of Bitcoin. This includes its role in the battle for society in a technological and authoritarian landscape.
Overall, the conference can be a bit heavy handed on the Bitcoin rhetoric if you’re a bit more chain-agnostic. But, it still provides a feast of worthwhile ideas, innovation and discussions for everyone.
While Bitcoin Miami 2023 may not herald Crypto Spring yet, it is setting itself up as a springboard to what is to be a much sunnier 2024. With the next Bitcoin halving locked in for late April next year, and the Ordinals and BRC20 movement growing, expect things to be very different this time around next year in Nashville.