The bitcoiners are coming, the bitcoiners are coming! To Miami, that is, as the Sunshine State’s largest city gets set to host what is projected to be the largest gathering of cryptocurrency enthusiasts the world has ever seen.
An estimated 50,000 people are expected to participate in an in-depth, two-day discussion of the global prospects of digital currency at an event headlined by Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey and renowned pro skater Tony Hawk.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Miami has embraced the crypto craze more than most large municipalities. As the Miami Herald reports, the city has sought to strengthen its standing as a hub for cryptocurrency, and Mayor Francis Suarez has recently announced initiatives to turn some parts of the city’s finances over to bitcoin.
All About Timing
The conference comes at an interesting point on the cryptocurrency timeline, as bitcoin — still the world’s most recognizable digital currency — has fallen 30 percent in the past eight weeks, going from $60,000 in April to less than $40,000 today.
“Crypto goes through this every couple of years,” noted CoinDesk’s Adam Levine. “There are signs that this cycle may be different — but it’s not so different, because you have a lot of opportunities coming out of the woodwork, and while some of those are good, a lot of them turn out to be scams.”
However, deciphering the good from the bad is getting ever more difficult amid a mix of changing consumer and business demand.
The Rising Demand to Spend
The fact that consumers are increasingly interested in cryptocurrency was one of the expected results of PYMNTS’ recently released Cryptocurrency Payments Report, in which 18 percent of U.S. respondents said they were likely to use crypto to make a purchase. Of those who have used it, 45 percent did so on small-dollar transactions of less than $100, with an estimated 19 percent making purchases of more than $1,000.
As for what they are buying with their bitcoin, the report suggests a variety of items, ranging from real estate and jewelry to groceries and food from delivery aggregators.
And there is evidence that crypto is edging toward the mainstream, as 12 percent of consumers (a projected 30 million) currently own one or more cryptocurrencies, while 4.5 percent (11.5 million) have owned them in the past and 17 million non-owners may acquire cryptocurrency in the near future.
And while there is some interest in crypto as a tool for investment (or speculation for the more crypto-cynical out there) — as three-quarters of study participants identified it as such — nearly two-thirds, 60 percent, identified cryptocurrency as something with which they would like to be able to transact.
It’s perhaps a sign that consumers may be more interested in the idea of crypto than they are understanding of it — in particular, the tax liability that could go along with spending it like regular currency. But as Stephen Pair, CEO of BitPay, noted in a recent conversation with PYMNTS, it’s clear that consumers want to at least have the option of spending the crypto reserves, meaning we’re headed toward an interconnected world of blockchains and cryptos, spanning stablecoins and other digital options. And crypto’s volatility is having the unusual effect of stimulating more purchases and drawing increased media attention to the space.
Moreover, Pair noted that firms like PayPal are investing more heavily in crypto, making it easier to check out with crypto. Late last month, PayPal announced that it will soon let customers who hold cryptocurrency in their accounts transfer the funds to external digital wallets rather than just hold or spend it.
“We want to make it as open as possible, and we want to give choice to our consumers,” PayPal’s Head of Blockchain Services Jose Fernandez da Ponte noted at a recent industry event. “[Same] as we let them pay any way they want to pay, we want them to bring their crypto to us, so they use it in commerce, and we want them to take crypto they acquire with us and take it to the destination of their choice.”
The Reshaping Landscape
The concept that crypto is best when it is accessible, fully usable and transportable has gained increasing prominence this spring, as we head into this weekend’s big crypto-gathering in Miami. Because cryptocurrency, and the way we view it, is changing, as Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director of the Stellar Development Foundation, told Karen Webster in a recent conversation. The promise of blockchain is evolving from a cutting-edge speculation tool into a technology that enables the real-time construction of a new Internet of Money, she noted.
Stellar’s is focused on accessibility to the USDC stablecoin, but Dixon was quick to point out that the road to cryptocurrency advancing into the mainstream will have a lot of origination points. “All networks have value – and I don’t believe in a ‘winner takes all’ model,” she said.
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