By Scott Spiegel
Miami is officially ready for Blockchain and 2021 will be the year Bitcoin goes mainstream in the 305, and across the State of Florida.
For the past three years I have been pushing the thesis that Miami has all the necessary ingredients to become the cryptocurrency capital of the world, attracting the best talent, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from the growing cryptocurrency ecosystem. As I’m writing this in January 2021, the only story more viral than Bitcoin’s price rise (as bitcoin hovers around $33,000) is the city of Miami’s emergence as a global technology hub for the 2020s — a vision pioneered by Mayor Frances Suarez on Twitter that has garnered major attention.
A Covid-19 surge has accelerated both an influx of talent and businesses into Miami, as well as a more pressing case for cryptocurrency, but the fundamentals were there even before Covid-19 for Miami’s crypto economy to flourish. Miami is in a perfect position to become a global hub for the blockchain & cryptocurrency industry for three main reasons: 1) its geographical location as the bridge to Latin America 2) the crypto-forward politicians throughout Florida (It’s not just Mayor Suarez who has the Bitcoin bug), and 3) Bitcoins’ peculiar history in Miami and the Sunshine State
1. Miami is the gateway to Latin America
If you weren’t aware, Miami is not your typical American city. 58.5 percent of Miami-dade county’s 2.4 million residents speak Spanish — and half of those say they don’t speak English well. English-only speakers make up 27.2 percent of the county’s residents. Some joke that Miami is the northernmost part of the Caribbean, but it’s a consensus that Miami is the finance, tech, and cultural hub of Latin America. Almost every global bank has a LATAM HQ located on Brickell Ave.
This Latin American influence is a competitive advantage for Miami’s chances of cryptocurrency adoption, because, despite what you may at first assume, the people of Latin America grasp a cryptocurrency like bitcoin much easier than your average American.
When I talk about bitcoin to my hometown friends from Philadelphia, they question why they wouldn’t just use Venmo or Zelle. When I explain bitcoin to a Venezuelan-American in Miami, she grasps the importance of having a safe store of value that is outside of the control from government influence. This is because Venezuelans are aware of the horrible consequences from currency hyperinflation, stemming from the abuse of a monetary system. As just one clear example of how hyperinflation can affect an economy — in 2013, one loaf of bread cost 7 Venezuelan pesos , in 2019 that same bread was worth 7,000,000 pesos.
Most Americans cannot define hyperinflation, let alone have to suffer recurring currency crises like our friends from Latin America do. The people of Miami are open to currency alternatives because they have first-hand experience, or have relatives and friends with first-hand experience, of currency catastrophe, something most citizens of any other US city is not familiar with.
2. Florida Regulators are on board
If you’re reading this, you are probably aware that on Twitter, Mayor of the City of Miami Francis Suarez has been a large supporter of bitcoin and blockchain the past two months. He has stated that he is open to implementing crypto-native tooling for governance, and has openly discussed the possibilities of investing 1% of the city’s assets into Bitcoin. Mayor Suarez has always had boots on the ground within the Miami tech community, not just recently on social media. I can speak from my own experience the past three years in the Miami cryptocurrency community. Mayor Suarez has been at every major conference as a keynote speaker at The North American Bitcoin Conference in 2020, to the Blockchain Center’s Inauguration in Downtown Miami in 2019. He has seen for years that Miami has the right ingredients to become an attractive place for the convergence of finance and technology.
But Mayor Suarez isn’t the only Florida politician pro-blockchain. Orlando Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) was named co-chairman of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, a bipartisan group that promotes the future of blockchain technology and shapes the role Congress plays in its development. Seminole County, FL was the first US government body to accept cryptocurrency as payment for county services in 2018. At the state level, Florida regulators have been very open to Blockchain, having passed legislation for both a Blockchain Task Force and a Fintech Regulatory Sandbox architected from the CFO’s office of Governor Desantis.
With low income taxes and beautiful beaches up and down the coasts, Florida has a real shot of attracting entrepreneurs and their businesses to the state. Why would you not want to be based here as a digital nomad? Work in the cloud and live in the sun.
3. Bitcoin’s history in Miami and the Sunshine State
Miami has a memorable crypto history. The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) is the longest running blockchain event having started in 2014. Notable blue chipped cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Litecoin were first launched in Miami — there was even a mansion on South Beach where the original creators of Ethereum would gather. On top of this, the Miami Bitcoin Hackathon, organized by local ATM Bitstop was launched in 2015 and is the longest running bitcoin hackathon to date.
North of Miami In Jacksonville, FL, the historic Bitcoin Pizza Story happened, where one gentleman spent 11,000 bitcoins for a Papa John’s pizza, famous for being the world’s first ever bitcoin transaction in 2011.
In West Palm Beach, FL , the infamous Craig Wright was prosecuted in court for falsifying evidence proclaiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, and only miles away from where Faketoshi lost his case , the real Satoshi Nakamoto could have coded bitcoin from right here in South Florida in 2008.
Flash forward to today, the Miami cryptocurrency industry has only been growing. In 2019 , Nick Spanos opened the sister location to the Bitcoin Center NYC in Downtown Miami , which spurred education amongst much of the local community leaders about blockchain. Other notable startups include BitBasel , Bitstop , BRD Wallet, Grapefruit Trading, QuickNode, Blockspaces, Dorg, QTUM, Bits n Tokens, PRECOLUMBIAN Token, Cappti and many many others.
The blockchain community will gather in Miami again for the 2nd annual Blockchain Week Monday January 25th — 30th. All content will be simultaneously livestreamed and is viewable for Free at blockchainweek.miami.
From my observation over the past 3 months, I can confirm that there is an influx of cryptocurrency enthusiasts making their way to Florida. These are people who are early to trend, so i would pay attention to their moves. There is a perfect storm of opportunity brewing for Miami to become the crypto capital of the world, and it’s up to those who see the opportunity to build on the vision and realize it.