When I first started acquainting myself with the Bitcoin industry in 2013, you could feel the energy in the air. The price had made a massive leap from about $100 to over $1000. Early investors were rich, entrepreneurs were energized and a new class of “Bitcoin Millionaires” began to pop up. Around this time we started to see websites like “https://www.bitpremier.com” sprout up to help these new rich members of society spend their money, while new companies like mine, Bitwage, began forming.
A year later, prices had sunk to about $400, but investors were still quite bullish on the recovery of the technology. It was around this time that I went to my first two Bitcoin conferences, Inside Bitcoins and CoinAgenda. This is where I was able to first meet many of the members in the industry I had heard so much about. Brock Pierce, Michael Terpin, and Juan Llanos were there. The sessions and the networking were incredibly valuable, but the traits that I remember much more strongly were the extravagance and the bullish confidence behind it.
Palms Sky Villa
The preparty for CoinAgenda, right after Inside Bitcoins ended, was held at the two story sky villa at The Palms. This is a $35,000 a night suite with an Infinity pool overlooking the Las Vegas strip. The next night was even more opulent. Mike Tyson’s mansion has a large indoor fountain, multiple pools, and an actual a river of its own.
Despite the energy of the conferences, the price of bitcoin continued to decline, stabilizing around $200 and remaining there for nearly a year. Startup morality and interest was at an all time low. The word “Bitcoin” became taboo among potential mainstream partners, investors and banks. The industry began to slowly shift the terminology from “Bitcoin” to “blockchain”, and private blockchains began to rise in popularity. The investment money dried up and once promising startups Bitwage had become close to shut their doors.
The price began to slowly recover in early June of last year as people in different countries around the world started to use the technology as a commodity to hedge the risk of country economic slowdowns. China’s stockmarket crashed, oil prices caused mayhem in Venezuela and Russia, a corrupt government in Brazil and ill-thought out demonetization of the rupee in India all caused people to lose faith in their local currencies. People learned they could preserve their wealth by going outside their fiat banking system, and local Bitcoin booms erupted.
Each of these countries saw surges in the price of Bitcoin ahead of global rates. This was great for Bitwage. We saw the rates we could pay out in locations like Brazil and India become incredibly favorable for our workers, often doing 20 to 50 percent better than interbank rates due to the local price rises.
Soon, prices in the US, Europe, and the rest of the world followed suit. Initially with a small increase to $450, then to $600, and then the amazing spike to almost $3000. Now in mid-2017 the price is over $2,000, the word Bitcoin has never been so fashionable, and the number of Bitcoin millionaires has increased many fold. As the money we saw from the first price spike is back in the industry, we are starting to see the return of extravagant conferences, and that brings me to the inspiration for this piece; BIP001, the Blockchain Incredible Party.
Jonathan Chester Presenting At BIP001
The first weekend of July, I was asked to speak at a conference regarding Bitwage in Odessa, Ukraine, called BIP001, organized by the Distributed Labs team. In the Bitcoin industry, BIP stands for Bitcoin Improvement Proposal, which is a process for adding new features to the Bitcoin protocol. The organizers of this event are both a clever and fun group of people and their play on the name of the Bitcoin upgrade method gives you a sense of what things are like there.
I had never been to Ukraine before, so I was not sure what exactly to expect, but what I found was a place of beaches, good food, and beautiful people. And the visit was extremely cheap, we’re talking appetizer, main course, and a drink for $6, then a thirty minute Uber ride home after is just $2.
The conference was one of the most well put together I have ever attended. High quality speakers from around the world, including Vlad Zamfir, Ethereum Core Developer from Canada, Frank Schwab, serial entrepreneur from Germany, and Giacomo Zucco, CEO of Blockchain Lab from Italy, presented from the roof of the M1 hotel, overlooking the Black Sea. Not only the speakers, but the participants were quite intelligent and high quality. That was surprising and pleasing, because when the Bitcoin price goes up the get rich quick schemers flock to events.
But the real magic happens outside the conference walls. Every night, the conference sponsored tables at one of the most popular night clubs in Ibiza. Lavish meals with both local and international flare were provided during the day. There was a conference Telegram group where people would be updated on the next meal or event. Those who could stay for the weekend could have attended Bitcoin and Ethereum meetups on Friday, and an all Russian Bitcoin meetup was held Saturday.
One of the beautiful things about small conferences with many intimate events is how closely everyone connects with each other. When you attend a mature industry conference, you spend five minutes speaking with someone, swap business cards, and maybe have a followup conversation a week down the line. BIP001 attendees were bumping into each other at the beach watching the sunrise, exchanging Telegram accounts, and making impromptu plans for breakfast. When you've got that much time together conversations are much more memorable. What makes it better is that these conversations and friends you make are with potential partners, customers, vendors, investors and investees. Instead of walking away with a hundred business cards for people you barely remember, you walk away with ten telegram numbers for people with whom you're quite ready to do business with in the future.
The wealth of connections and intellectual conversations had during the Blockchain Incredible Party are quite hard to replicate outside of an environment like this. When the Bitcoin price rises, it's a tide that lifts all boats. If you've been curious, now is the time to find an event that fits your schedule. Maybe I'll even see you there.
When I first started acquainting myself with the Bitcoin industry in 2013, you could feel the energy in the air. The price had made a massive leap from about […]