Even with the world’s best known virtual currency down more than 50 percent from its record high, thousands of advocates are expected to descend upon New York in what’s been dubbed Blockchain Week. Named after the decentralized computer ledger technology that’s been pitched as the solution to everything from inefficient financial transactions to global poverty, the affair represents a push to bring more blockchain jobs to the world’s financial capital.
More than 8,000 people are expected to crowd into a Midtown Manhattan hotel for Consensus, the biggest of about two dozen events and conferences between May 10 and May 19. During the three-day blockchain bonanza, which kicks off Monday, attendees can watch young tech whizzes and old-world financiers debate the future of digital payments, and see startups pitch their plans to anyone who will listen. The conference shouldn’t be confused with ConsenSys, the Brooklyn-based blockchain startup founded by Ethereum guru Joseph Lubin, who sponsored his own event.
Consensus, hosted by media and research company CoinDesk Inc., will feature hundreds of speakers, including Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard and FedEx Corp. CEO Frederick Smith. Then there are the afterparties, including a bash hosted by payment firm Ripple that will be headlined by rapper Snoop Dogg at a secret location in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
The May 10 Fluidity Summit, one of the first events during Blockchain Week, offered a peek at what’s to come. A pink-haired woman in a dress suit sat across from a scruffy-bearded man in a jean jacket while crypto heavyweight Mike Novogratz told tales of meeting with Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executives about the future of crypto trading. One Wall Street worker lamented the monotony of investment banking, and said she came to the sold-out event in search of a job in crypto.
For years, outsiders have dubbed members of the crypto community as libertarian oddballs trying to take down the global financial system. This stereotype rings less true in 2018, when traditional institutions including Goldman Sachs have climbed onboard, highlighting the nascent industry’s slow-but-sure move into the mainstream.
Consensus is expected to draw more than twice as many people as last year, when one Bitcoin would have cost you about $2,500. Now the top digital token is worth almost four times as much, though that still pales in comparison to the $20,000 price tag it flirted with late last year. The conference could cause Bitcoin to rally, Thomas Lee, head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, predicted last week.
Regulation will undoubtedly be an overarching theme, as financial watchdogs around the world have recently doubled down their scrutiny on digital currencies. Representatives of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be speaking.
Blockchain Week was launched in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation in an effort to showcase the city as an up-and-coming center for blockchain companies. There will be a job fair on May 16.
Some blockchain fanatics may be opting out of Consensus because they can’t afford it. Tickets currently range from $1,499 to $2,999. Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin tweeted last month that he’s boycotting the conference for a number of reasons, including the hefty price tag.
“The conference costs $2-3k to attend,” Buterin said. “I refuse to personally contribute to that level of rent seeking.”