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Booming Bitcoin Attracts Enthusiasts to Miami Beach

By: Marisol Medina - @BreakingMarisol - Jan 30, 2014, 2:00 pm

EspañolThe Miami Beach Convention Centre was home to the first North American Bitcoin Conference this past weekend, with the aim of “driving the currency from speculation to mainstream.” Headline speakers — including Jeffrey Tucker and Charlie Shrem — and dozens of exhibitors drew 1,200 bitcoin enthusiasts from around the world for the two-day agenda of lectures and networking.

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer digital currency, better known as a “cryptocurrency,” has been on the market since 2009 and has achieved considerable progress in the few years since its start. The list of stores that accept the currency continues to grow (click here for a directory and here for an interactive map), and its market capitalization is now at US$11.4 billion.

Moe Levin, the event’s organizer, calls bitcoin “the greatest innovation since the industrial revolution,” and he also organized the European Bitcoin Conference in Amsterdam last year. He said the conference, sponsored by BitPay, was “a national success,” and he expects it to become an annual event, as more people start to see “all the good that bitcoin can do.”

He explains the recent jump in value, currently at $814 per coin, from $13 in the beginning of 2013, with increased demand from those who have realized how powerful it is. Major retailers have been considering bitcoin, and the technology retailer TigerDirect made headlines this month for being one of the first major retailers to take the plunge. Overstock.com is another.

“It’s only going to get higher,” Levin said, since he believes the currency is the best way to send money internationally and without a third party. “I predict that in 10 years, teachers will show paper money to their students and say ‘here’s what we used to use.'”

The conference’s goal was to generate attention for bitcoin with people besides programmers and hackers, and attention they got, including from the Miami Herald and Forbes. CNN Money described it as “the largest-ever bitcoin conference [with] hustlers, dreamers, sharks, and technocrats.”

Levin added that organizers chose Miami for the event because of its easy access and centrality between North and South America. “It’s a warm, beautiful, and international city, and the perfect combination of everything that’s good about business and financials,” Levin said. Abdul Haseeb Awan, cofounder of Bit Access and an attendee, wasn’t complaining.

Blockchain, a team of bitcoin bloggers and enthusiasts, described it as “a truly phenomenal gathering of innovation and inspiring energy,” and they note “a major overlying theme of the conference was the need to [educate] not only the public, but also major financial regulators.” Bitcoin has been demonized, they write, “but traditional banking will quickly become obsolete unless regulators educate themselves on the value and utility of the Bitcoin network . . .”

Members of this group, along with many other people in attendance, did not hide their motivation as coming from greater independence for the individual. The currency’s decentralized nature bypasses conventional financial outlets and governments, and Blockchain members will attend the New Hampshire Liberty Forum next month.

Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.

Marisol Medina Marisol Medina

Marisol Medina is a journalism student at Florida International University and a staff writer for the university's newspaper, The Beacon. Follow @thisjournalist.