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What I Saw at Bitcoin 2021 Conference in Miami


As a Bitcoiner of many years, I’m coming away inspired by the rapid pace at which Bitcoin and crypto are being accepted. Miami was chosen because the mayor, Francis Suarez, is pushing to make his city the Silicon Valley of crypto—one more reason, besides the great beaches and food, to come here. Representatives from cities around the world came to explore ways to embrace blockchain and cryptocurrency.

As CEO of an Indian exchange, I’m also coming away determined that India should not fall behind. I can’t overstate how much talent, resources, and capital were represented at this conference, ready to invest in this technology. Billion-dollar accounts and billion-dollar brains. I couldn’t help noticing that there were not many speakers of Indian origin, which is unusual for a tech conference.

Everyone was talking about reports of El Salvador introducing a bill to make Bitcoin legal tender. It’s interesting because the current legal tender in El Salvador is actually the US dollar, not a national currency. You can imagine how many discussions took place about the politics, economics, and logistics. We’ll see more debate, but I’m sure of one thing: El Salvador won’t be the last. All countries need to be ready to work with neighbors who have Bitcoin in their treasuries.

Other hot topics included new and growing blockchains and their cryptocurrencies, assets, and tokens, including Ethereum and DeFi projects. Decentralized finance was on everyone’s minds, along with other technologies moving towards decentralization, such as VPN, social media, and multimedia content. Bitcoin wasn’t the only star.

And what did everyone think about Bitcoin prices? As you might expect, everyone we talked to was bullish about the long-term, prepared for more volatility, and looking to keep stacking sats.

Okay, enough policy and economics. Here’s a little celebrity gossip.

Elon Musk is still popular among Bitcoin enthusiasts, but maybe not the god he was a few months ago. Others, who are more focused on education than sensation, like Michael Saylor, for example, were getting a lot of buzz in the side conversations and coffee breaks. This makes sense: Bitcoin believers want more education and less hype.

Jack Dorsey said he believed there was “nothing more important in my lifetime” than to work in Bitcoin. When the guy who created Twitter and Square said Bitcoin is his new life’s work, it was a big deal for everyone in the crowd.

Boxing champ Floyd Mayweather spoke mostly about NFTs, not Bitcoin, and wore an Ethereum t-shirt. I have to admit I also wore an Ethereum t-shirt on the last day. But Floyd caught some boos when he said that someday another crypto might be as big as Bitcoin. Wrong thing to say, for two reasons. First, it’s like dissing Rajnikanth at a Rajnikanth fan conference. Second, Bitcoin has unique qualities as the first of its kind. Other coins may get a lot of market cap and usage, but their growth only fuels Bitcoin’s growth.

I saw a lot of old friends, like Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Gemini and some leading venture capitalists and early Bitcoin evangelists. This year, it felt more like an event in an established industry, not a new technology looking for acceptance. This is why I want more Indian representation in 2022.

My team and I had some great talks with potential partners about creating new services for ZebPay members. I can’t reveal too much, but the range of conversations we had were similar to the wide range of topics at the conference. We’ve got some cool ideas in store for ZebPay in the coming months.

One big takeaway for me was the need to elevate how the general public sees Bitcoin. I discussed this with several friends, including Naveen Jain, co-founder of Tari Labs and y.at. For example, people don’t think of Nike as a shoe company, though that’s how they started. They see Nike as a movement to help humans reach their full potential.

Nearly everyone at the conference sees Bitcoin as more than a store of value, digital payment method, or technology. We believe Bitcoin is a movement to reduce inequality and bring economic opportunity to millions who are underestimated and underserved.

And if the line of people waiting to enter on opening day is any indication, the number of people who see Bitcoin this way is only going to grow. The queue was almost a kilometer long this year. In 2022, it will be even longer.

(Rahul Pagidipati, co-CEO, ZebPay)

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