Bitcoin enthusiasm is still high at cryptocurrency conference despite recent slump

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 5:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 11:07pm

If any bitcoin investors went broke this week, they were not looking for pity in Miami, where hordes of digital-currency enthusiasts converged to mostly profess optimism about the future of the technology.

Bitcoin plummeted 23 per cent on Tuesday and went even lower on Wednesday, before regaining some ground, amid a December-to-January collapse that erased 53 per cent from peak to trough.

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But the investors, entrepreneurs and curious outsiders who packed the main hall at the James L Knight Center this week for the North American bitcoin Conference largely said they still believed in the merits of digital money.

Dustin Byington, president of Wanchain, which lets people combine digital assets on one platform, acknowledged “a little pullback in the last couple days” but said he was not concerned, as he posted a graph of the meteoric increase in digital assets worldwide over the years.

“What we believe totally to be true is that this graph will continue dramatically up and to the right – that soon, we will not have a US$600 billion market cap,” he told a cheering audience. “We will have a US$2 trillion market cap! Four, 12, 20!”

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The event is one of many signs that the network of entrepreneurs that has grown up around digital currencies and the blockchain distributed-ledger system is not going away, despite repeated warnings about bubbles and cryptocurrency’s extreme volatility.

They say they’re gambling on innovation that will change the way people transact business, not just speculating on an asset few members of the investing public understand.

When a presenter asked about political affiliation, the loudest cheers came from self-declared independents and libertarians.

The mostly male audience packed the auditorium to the upper levels, some in business suits, others with backward ball caps and quirky jumpers featuring the name of their favourite cryptocurrency. Event organisers handed out bitcoin dress socks. 

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Bruce Fenton, the founder of Atlantic Financial, who gave a presentation on how to evaluate the relative quality of different coins, said he had been through a lot of days “like yesterday and the day before,” citing sharp declines in late 2014.

“You really start to wonder, is it gone? Was this real?” he said, describing his experience when bitcoin fell to US$331 on October 7, 2014, after trading as high as US$915 the same year. Now, even amid the latest slump, it’s going for upwards of US$11,000.

“We stuck with it, because we believed in the technology,” Fenton said.