You could argue that crypto enthusiasts were a little spoiled at the Bitcoin 2021 conference.
El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele made a truly groundbreaking announcement that his country would start using Bitcoin as legal tender.
Going to the event in Miami this year, many Bitcoiners were confident that more nation-states would announce that they would do the same.
Other notable developments were also expected.
The first day of Bitcoin 2022’s main conference did deliver some bullish news for investors – with companies unveiling new features that make it easier and cheaper to transact crypto and stack sats.
Here are seven things we learned:
With Nayib Bukele pulling out of Bitcoin 2022 due to “unforeseen circumstances”, there was a lot of anticipation for Jack Mallers’ keynote speech at the end of the day.
He decided to make the most of his time on stage – starting with a long-winded look at the history of legacy payment networks, all the way back to the introduction of the Diners’ Club.
Mallers argued that there has been no innovation in payment network infrastructure for decades. Card networks and merchant banks continue to slow things down… and this ultimately hurts merchants, who end up losing three cents in the dollar in fees. He said:
“In reality, payment networks haven’t innovated in over 50 years. That’s insane. That’s insane. You’re telling me that this ‘I want to pay for something’ problem hasn’t been innovated since 1949, since the caviar buffet. That’s ridiculous. Like what? It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.”
Strike’s solution? A new, low-cost payment network that would be built on top of Bitcoin.
The company is committed to moving the Lightning Network forward. Strike not only partners with Shopify, but also partners with US payment company Blackhawk… and NCR, the world’s largest provider of point-of-sale services.
Predicting that these partnerships mean Bitcoin could be used as a payment method in millions of US storefronts, experts also approvingly predicted that this will allow crypto investors to “virtually live their lives” using only BTC. mallers said:
“McDonald’s, Walmart, Macy’s, Best Buy. This isn’t in another country. This isn’t a test pilot somewhere. No, this is in the United States of America. You can walk into a grocery store to Whole Foods, to Chipotle. use a Lightning node over Tor? Do you want to use the Cash app? Do you do that.”
Mallers was the last of many to talk about Lightning Network during the day.
This technology promises to make BTC payments instantaneous by ensuring that users don’t have to worry about block confirmation times. It is also scalable and has the potential to allow “millions to billions of transactions” to take place on the Bitcoin blockchain. And crucially, it’s low-cost too — cutting costs that have made the network unaffordable for some.
In addition to Strike, Cash App also had a deluge of announcements. The company not only enables people to receive Lightning Network transactions, but also allows users to automatically invest in BTC through their paychecks and loose change. Robinhood also embraces Lightning.
Speaking with Cathie Wood of ARK Invest, Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy said he believes crypto firms that don’t embrace Lightning could be at a significant disadvantage — and customers may want to transact elsewhere. Comparing this to “closing yourself off the internet,” he said:
“The killer application in the world will be when six billion people are walking around with a cell phone with an Android or iOS app, and they have a Lightning wallet and that wallet has some BTC as a store of value. And it has some dollars or euros or whatever as a medium of exchange And then you will see tens of trillions and then hundreds of trillions of dollars all moving on Lightning rails secured by the Bitcoin network And then people will wake up and realize god damn this stuff is really going to change the world.”
Samson Mow — who recently left Blockstream to focus on Bitcoin’s adoption in the state — told the crowd he’s starting his own company as part of that quest.
On stage, he also revealed that the city of Prospera in Honduras – and the Portuguese autonomous region of Madeira – are adopting Bitcoin.
It was particularly telling when he suggested that we will not see another country like El Salvador embrace Bitcoin as legal tender… and instead, progress will have to be made at the grassroots level. We spoke to Samson after his speech and he told the CoinMarketRecap podcast:
“In most countries, the president or prime minister doesn’t have that much influence… I think it’s going to be an outlier to just let a big nation-state go from above and say ‘we’re going to do Bitcoin’, just like El Salvador “I don’t think that’s common. We’re going to see more grassroots, city, state-level adoption. We’ve seen that in Lugano in Switzerland. I think that’s definitely promising. It’s the same as Madeira.”
The former world tennis number one appeared on a Cash App panel with Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers.
She has recently invested in a number of crypto startups, including Bitcoin rewards platform Lolli.
Williams said Bitcoin has been around for 13 years now and has had a long time to prove it works and build a track record.
“I really love cryptocurrency because it’s the future – Bitcoin in particular really stands out because it’s so unique and so different.”
We caught up with Mastercard’s head of crypto Raj Dhamodharan at the end of Bitcoin 2022’s first day.
Our interview took place just after Jack Mallers said there had been no innovation in payment networks in over 50 years.
So, did Dhamodharan think this criticism was justified? No, is the short answer.
He pointed out how Mastercard is being used to enable people to invest in crypto and simplify the process for those buying non-fungible tokens. The credit card giant also partners with companies like Bitpay and Coinbase — and recently acquired blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace. After highlighting all this on the CoinMarketRecap podcast, he said:
“We just finished talking about all the things we do in this space. Everyone is an innovation, right? We’re constantly adding value, instilling trust in the ecosystem, and bringing a curated payment experience to billions of users.”
When asked whether Mastercard embraced crypto because it’s a staunch believer in the technology — or whether it’s a protective move against fears that digital assets could bankrupt it — he said:
“It’s neither. It’s really about choice. Mastercard has always been about enabling different ways to move value.”
There was no shortage of criticism of fiat currencies.
Mexican billionaire Ricardo B. Salinas told the crowd about what he called the “fiat fraud” — saying that while emerging economies have used the US dollar as a flight to security for decades, its purchasing power will decline significantly in the coming years.
Later in the day, he warned that central bank digital currencies have the potential to be “worse than the dollar”, saying:
“I like cigars. No, no. CBDCs wouldn’t be good for a cigar. Partying after 2am? Banned. No money after 2am. They think it’s a bad idea? They close your capacity spend your money. They will track 100% of your spending – what you spent and how you spent it.”
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel even took the opportunity to offer US dollars to the public – and despite speaking to a crowd of Bitcoiners, he still had some takers.
A panel led by Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation kicked off with a video featuring clips of Bitcoin critique from the likes of Bill Gates, Charlie Munger and Bill Maher.
It explained that all these men have one thing in common: they are citizens of advanced economies with property rights, freedom of speech, a functional justice system, and a stable reserve currency.
The video then points out that only 13% benefit from this – and the remaining 87% live in a country with a weak currency or an authoritarian regime. As a result, they may not fully understand how powerful Bitcoin could be in emerging economies… and those with hyperinflation.