The spirit of innovation is an integral part of the American success story. A quick glance at a list of the biggest companies in America today should leave no doubt that the economic engine is no longer oil or automobiles - but platforms and operating systems.
Staying on the bleeding edge of technology has helped America immensely, which is why cities across the nation are embracing the latest breakthrough in digital innovation - blockchain technology. And Miami is keen on leading the charge.
As the hype around cryptocurrencies reached fever pitch last year, newcomers overlooked the pivotal role Florida and the Magic City played in the story of Bitcoin. The very first Bitcoin transaction was for the delivery of two pizzas to programmer Laszlo Hanyecz from his local Papa John's joint in Jacksonville, Florida. The 10,000 BTC transaction would be worth $65m at today’s rate. Bitcoin Pizza Day is now celebrated every year on 22nd of May.
A few years later, the first North American Bitcoin Conference popped up in Miami Beach. Vitalik Buterin, then a 19-year-old student, unveiled his groundbreaking Ethereum project at the conference, while would-be presenter Charlie Shrem was arrested on charges of money laundering on his way to the conference. Noteworthy events like these solidified Miami’s reputation as a prime destination for blockchain events and networking.
The momentum has picked up in recent years. There are now more blockchain fundraising events, meetups, conferences, exhibitions, lectures and parties in Miami than ever before. Nearly 30 startups have already raised millions of dollars for their ICOs at this year’s North American Bitcoin Conference. After confirming partnerships with IBM, Tesla, KPMG, Bloomberg, and many others, the first ever Blockchain Shift conference will be held later this month. Besides the regular presentations and networking booths, the conference is set to feature yacht excursions and a night of electronic dance music.
But it isn’t just events and speakers flocking to the city; there’s been a grassroots movement to create new blockchain-powered companies and educational institutions as well. In 2013, BitStop became the first Bitcoin ATM provider in America. The company was launched in Palmetto Bay, Florida, and now operates a network of over 50 ATMs across Florida and California. The founders of BitStop expressed their confidence in the state while talking to the Miami New Times recently:
We think we can build a billion-dollar business just here in Florida
Meanwhile, George Levy kickstarted the Blockchain Institute of Technology (BIT) in Miami in early 2016. His educational institute has already helped thousands of students from across the world learn about and engage with blockchain technology.
Miami’s culture and dynamism have played a key role in supporting these entrepreneurs in their endeavours. While local regulations provide breathing room to anyone trying something new, the Spanish speaking population gives entrepreneurs easy access to one of the fastest growing markets for cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology - Latin America.
While developers and entrepreneurs in America experiment with the technology, there’s a vast pool of users emerging in Latin America willing to adopt anything that saves them from the tyranny and bureaucracy of their local government. Miami has the potential to serve as the blockchain hub for the entire region.
Meanwhile, the state of Florida is doing its part to help Miami’s crypto innovations thrive. Earlier this year it created the position of ‘Crypto Chief’ to oversee the industry and try to regulate it. The state legislature also introduced a bill that would recognise blockchain signatures and smart contracts, with support and clarity from lawmakers a pressing need for the blockchain community.
Besides the culture and laws, Miami has something else to offer in terms of livability. Not a lot of people would refuse the chance to live near the pristine beaches and spectacular clubs of Miami. The local attractions and weather may help entrepreneurs recruit talent from across the nation. The not-so-secret sauce for startup success: the ability to attract and retain top talent.
This unique mix of language, access, amenities, lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit, I believe, sets Miami apart and fortunately, local entrepreneurs, developers and lawmakers are aligning to make this vibrant city a pioneer in this nascent technology.
Alex Lopatine’s bio
With over 20 years of international business experience, Alexander Lopatine is proud to be the founder of Blockchain Shift, an event created to connect the most successful innovators in the blockchain field. He’s also well known for previously starting up Nymbus.com – a software system created to revolutionize the banking industry and is the current managing partner for Park Capitol, executive chairman of Wyhs.ai and managing director at Paladin.