Miami is still a long way from being the bitcoin capital of America

In January 2021, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez took to Twitter proclaim his city the new cryptocurrency mecca. “The City of Miami believes in #Bitcoin,” he said tweeted“and I’m working day and night to make Miami a hub for crypto innovation.”

These weren’t just empty words: In the same year, Suarez started MiamiCoin, a crypto coin for the city that generated $5 million for the city since its inception. And that’s with no state income tax and a corporate tax rate of only 5.5%, it wasn’t hard to see the appeal a place nicknamed The Magic City could have for a fledgling industry sometimes accused of magical thinking itself. And it kind of works: Crypto giant, for example, left New York City and leased Earlier this year, a huge office in the city.

“There’s an incentive for every place to be the hottest new place,” the economist said Jodi Beggs told Fast company. “If for no other reason your brand town is associated with a hot new thing. And, frankly, that’s kind of Miami’s jam, isn’t it?”

Earlier this month, Suarez was back at a launch event for Bitcoin 2022, the world’s largest Bitcoin conference, taking place in Miami. He poses proudly in front of the city’s coveted new work of art, a £3,000 statue of an android bull representing the Miami Herald perceptively pointed out “looks like a giant transformer,” the mayor exclaimed, “we need to integrate bitcoin into every aspect of our society.”

But if the current state of Bitcoin integration in Miami is any indication of what a crypto city might look like, it’s safe to say that both the concept and the city still have a long way to go.

Beggs, who has prior experience in cryptanalysis, grew up out of town and is well acquainted with the Miami ethos that has begun to capture the interest of the crypto world.

“There was already a kind of ‘Hey, we’re going to do our more unconventional financial activities when the weather is nice.’ And I think the financial players that are moving their bitcoin business to Miami are totally into it,” she says.

Miami’s flirtation with the crypto business can be felt everywhere. Immediately after entering the city from the airport, you will be greeted by billboards advertising NFT lines. It’s not uncommon to see a bitcoin ATM next to a regular one while driving around town. (Beggs says the idea of ​​a Bitcoin ATM doesn’t even make sense: “The whole point of crypto is that you don’t need ATMs.”)

However, the reality of Miami’s blockchain-centric ambitions doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding Suarez’s tweets. Miami is fifth in the country for crypto investments acc Bloomberg. San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Albany are all superior in terms of money generated from crypto investing deals. The much-touted MiamiCoin has also seen bad return for early adopters. According to CoinMarketCap, the coin is culminated at $0.05 last September. It is currently hovering around $0.002, which makes its future hazy at best. (Mayor Suarez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

To make matters worse, this year’s Bitcoin 2022 was not the slam dunk that many seemed to expect. The convention has met with a lukewarm reception from some of Bitcoin’s biggest diehards. Mr. Whale, a cryptocurrency-tracking Twitter account with half a million followers, explained the event was a total failure. “Not only were more than 70% of the seats empty, but also many large guests [El Salvador’s President] Nayib Bukele didn’t even show up,” Mr Whale tweeted. “Bitcoin is tanking and many participants left very disappointed.”

And Mr. Whale wasn’t alone with the post-convention bitcoin malaise. “[I] I don’t think I can host another crypto conference for a few months, I love meeting people and reconnecting with friends and partners, but having so many events all the time feels incredibly unproductive says Meltem Demirors, CoinShares Chief Strategy Officer, tweeted over the weekend.

But there are bigger problems here: A city attempting to institutionally adopt Bitcoin is arguably at odds with the very nature of cryptocurrency, where the appeal is that it is not tied to a particular government. Another problem for a crypto city is that nobody wants to spend their bitcoin.

“If you expect your cryptocurrency to make a return and you are using it as a speculative vehicle, you will not buy [anything with it]’ says Begs.

In fact, not much Bitcoin was issued at the Bitcoin 2022 Convention. The bars, food trucks and cafes all only accepted credit or debit cards. Which, of course, might not be entirely surprising given that a popular meme within the bitcoin community states that “cash is for spending, bitcoin is for holding”.

At the back of the convention hall, in a little bazaar in the corner, people were selling bitcoin-themed artwork (and one person was selling real, permanent Pepe the Frog tattoos), there were quite a few sits— or fractions of a bitcoin — being sent back and forth between providers and customers. An artist at the convention, Susan Van Volkenburg, says that she had sold some of her pieces in bitcoin. Her paintings, which weren’t NFTs but physical paintings that paid tribute to Bitcoin (and glowed in the dark), are part of a project called Essence Of Bitcoin. “I had a cash sale. A visa. Everything else was bitcoin,” she says.

Van Volkenburg, who joined Bitcoin in 2017 and comes to Miami for Bitcoin events, says she is extremely optimistic about the Mayor of Miami’s crypto initiatives. “I think the mayor of Miami is all about it,” she says. “I think Miami is going to be all about that.” However, she says she didn’t buy anything with bitcoin while in Miami.

“There’s none of that gimmicky shit here”

If you want to find an actual use for your bitcoin, there are a few restaurants in town that will accept it, the most notable being Bitcoin Pizza, a chain with multiple locations in Miami. But a Google search for “bitcoin” in Miami usually brings up bitcoin ATMs scattered throughout. Although actually finding one of the machines can be almost impossible.

There were four working bitcoin ATMs in Miami Beach, south of where Suarez installed the Miami Bull. The machines were located in convenience stores and check-cashing centers along Washington Avenue. Finding them is difficult, but using them is even more difficult.

All four ATMs on Washington Avenue required a specific account and corresponding crypto wallet that matched the ATM you were planning to use. This meant you would have to transfer your bitcoin from the wallet you were using to a new wallet before you could buy or sell anything. Also, the majority of ATMs did not hold cash, meaning if you had the account and wallet needed to activate the ATM, you could only use it to buy bitcoin, which you can easily do with most crypto trading apps.

Victor, a man who works behind the counter at one of the convenience stores on Washington Avenue, which housed a Bitcoin ATM, told the story Fast company that it took a while for people to start using the machine at his store, but now it’s about 20 to 30 people a week.

“There’s a guy coming [mainland Miami] once a week and uses it, but I tell him to call the store first,” says Victor. “Because what happens when the machine is full of money, it goes into a non-use mode. it looks like you know The Matrixwith zeros and ones.”

However, the bitcoin ATMs on Washington Avenue are not at the true heart of the city’s crypto boom. Wynwood, on the other side of Miami Beach’s neon lights, is the part of town that feels the most San Francisco, complete with lime scooters and block after block of warehouses with beer gardens. Throughout the neighborhood, the former industrial center is turning into the Silli Coin Valley. It features a selfie museum, a non-profit organization called Crypto Corridor, and the Blockchain Institute of Technology. But, once again, it was difficult to find someone who actually deals with Bitcoin there.

Two people who work at a vape store pop-up in an open-air shopping district called Wynwood Marketplace shared the story Fast company They had never asked anyone to use Bitcoin but said it sounded like a fun thing to accept one day.

Google Maps lists a Bitcoin ATM near a corner on 23rd Street in Wynwood and includes an image of a store called Lucky Records on its Google listing. When asked whether or not there was a bitcoin ATM on the premises, a man working behind the counter said Fast company“Nah, man – there’s none of that gimmicky shit here.”

In fact, beyond Suarez’s Twitter-made Bitcoin optimism, there seems to be an overwhelming kind of angry ambivalence among the people who actually have to live and work in Miami, between the city’s endless crypto conferences — of which there are many. At least 15 other major crypto events are happening in the Miami area through June.

A Miami Beach resident named Nicole, who lived near the convention center housing Bitcoin 2022 last week, wasn’t shy about how much she disliked the city’s blockchain-based transformation over the past year.

“It’s growing too fast right now,” she said Fast company as she passed the convention center. “And that’s not good because the people who live here, we’re used to a certain lifestyle and suddenly we’re becoming California. No bueno.”

She says she believes Suarez is pushing Bitcoin because he invests heavily in it, and not because of any particular desire to see decentralized currencies flourish. As of last November, Suarez said he will receive his entire $97,000 salary in bitcoin, although that’s not his only source of income. He also works as a lawyer.

“[Crypto investors] are too conceited,” says Nicole. “They think they’re better because they have this technology and they can pay for it with something that’s up in the air. I’m old fashioned, I believe in cash. So I don’t believe in something that comes and goes and can go away in seconds. It’s gambling.” Miami is still a long way from being the bitcoin capital of America


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