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Dubbed as “the largest Bitcoin event in history,” Bitcoin 2021 consisted of 12,000 attendees from across the globe. Undoubtedly, Bitcoin (BTC) adoption is growing at an impressive rate. Yet judging by the attendance at Bitcoin 2021, men still appear to be the primary audience for Bitcoin.
While the lines to the bathroom made it obvious that there were nowhere near as many female attendees as there were males, there were also fewer women speakers than men at Bitcoin 2021. For example, only 27 women are featured on the Bitcoin 2021 website, which consists of over 150 speakers in total.
Although this was the case, the 27 women who did speak at Bitcoin 2021 left a lasting impact. The female speakers at Bitcoin 2021 discussed a number of different topics including regulations, technical aspects, legal requirements and more.
Wyoming sets the stage for Bitcoin innovation
United States Senator of Wyoming Cynthia Lummis discussed how regulators can encourage Bitcoin innovation in the country. Lummis was joined by Representative Warren Davidson for the panel “Bringing Bitcoin Innovation Home to America.”
Lummis kickstarted the discussion by explaining how she got involved with Bitcoin, saying: “I got into Bitcoin after being Wyoming State Treasurer. I was looking for great stores of value.”
Lummis mentioned that the “fun” thing about Bitcoin is that it’s very non-partisan and bi-partisan at the same time. As such, she noted that it’s a great space for those struggling with other issues that are decisive in Congress. “Bitcoin is a great ‘Switzerland’ kind of a place for us, where we can work on these issues and put aside some of the political consequences.”
While Lummis made a number of notable points, the audience applauded her comment regarding Bitcoin’s use as an asset to interconnect with the U.S. dollar:
“It can be the underlying network worldwide to keep the dollar the global reserve currency, but still allow people to transact in a very freedom-loving way. Whether you’re in Venezuela, where inflation is outrageous and you’re trying to get your wealth out of the country, you can get it out through Bitcoin. And, the United States, if we get to the point where we’re experiencing the kind of inflation that we’ve seen this year, we may want that alternative as well.”
Given Wyoming’s friendly stance toward Bitcoin, it was no surprise to also see Caitlin Long, CEO and founder of Avanti Financial Group — a Wyoming bank formed to bridge digital assets with the U.S. dollar payment system — speak at Bitcoin 2021. Long spoke on a panel entitled “Evolutions of Exchanges” and made a number of insightful points.
For instance, when asked about centralization risks associated with exchanges, Long noted that the digital asset industry is making some of the same mistakes as traditional financial services:
“You cannot have perfect markets if you don’t have perfect information. The intermediaries in this industry are not doing proof-of-reserves and are not voluntarily disclosing financial statements to understand the counterparty risk associated with them. In some cases, with 100-to-1 or 125-to-1 leverage future contracts, the probability of loss is in the high 90th percentile. Would people actually trade those if they knew they were virtually guaranteed to lose money?”
When asked about the ethos behind Avanti Financial, Long further remarked that “Satoshi gave us money that isn’t debt,” noting that Avanti is committed to solvency instead of liquidity. “A lot of folks are obsessed with liquidity, but Satoshi didn’t create anything designed to be leveraged and didn’t care about liquidity,” she said. Long additionally advised the audience to learn about circulation credit.
Bitcoin’s network effect explained
The “Bitcoin for Billions, Not Billionaires” fireside chat featuring Elizabeth Stark, co-founder and CEO of Lightning Labs, and Lyn Alden, founder of Lyn Alden Investment Strategy, was also interesting. The discussion focused on the importance of Bitcoin’s network effect, something which both Stark and Alden are very passionate about.
Alden explained that Bitcoin’s network effect is important to understand when considering Bitcoin as an investment asset. The economist shared that, initially, she was wary of covering Bitcoin as an asset class due to its open-source nature, which could easily be replicated, along with its giant price run in 2017. However, after watching Bitcoin’s network effect over time, Alden noted that the digital assets could withstand its competitors while also maintaining its strong, devoted community. “Over time, my conviction kept growing and growing. By the time we had the early 2021 liquidity issue, that’s when I finally said ‘I’m in,’” she said.
After monitoring Bitcoin’s network effect for some time, Alden noted that her fascination extended to the Lighting Network, a layer-two payment protocol. She explained that in some ways, the layer-two aspect is more reliant on the network effect than Bitcoin’s base layer since the key limitation of the second layer is liquidity:
“The stronger this gets over time, the more usable the network gets as a protocol of value. It’s been important to monitor the network effect to see it continue to grow. This is separate from Bitcoin’s price fluctuations, as the underlying fundamentals here are use cases and technology improvements, which are the key things for Bitcoin’s success.”
Investing in the Bitcoin space for growth
Another notable female speaker at Bitcoin 2021 was Hong Fang, CEO of OKCoin. Fang spoke on the “Giving Back to Bitcoin” panel, where she discussed how to prioritize investments in the Bitcoin space, who to invest in, and how to make the Bitcoin community scalable. “As to date, our investment in sponsoring the developers is up to $1 million, which is about $500,000 a year. To us, this is a significant amount of money, but when you think of the funding needs of developers, this is a small amount,” she said. As such, Fang noted that it’s important to keep Bitcoin developer funding diversified and flexible.
An interesting point regarding Bitcoin and decentralization was further made by Alyse Killeen during the “Investing in the Bitcoin Ecosystem Panel.” Killeen told Cointelegraph that the panel mainly focused on the risks that can occur when money is centralized, such as inflation. With this in mind, she explained the importance of Bitcoin’s decentralization:
“One of the necessary things for a thriving decentralized finance environment to exist is for decentralization to be present at the base layer. It doesn’t make sense to build decentralized finance on software controlled by rulers. Bitcoin is a system of software enforced by rules, but absent of rulers.”
New legal requirements for Bitcoin
To Killeen’s point, there are a number of rules associated with Bitcoin. Hailey Lennon, partner at Anderson Kill law firm, and Teana Baker-Taylor, general manager for Crypto.com U.K., made this clear during the “Bitcoin Makes the Laws” session.
For example, Baker-Taylor explained how the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, relates to Bitcoin. Specifically, she explained the privacy issues brought about by the Travel Rule, which aims to require individual crypto users to provide information when sending or receiving Bitcoin across any blockchain network. “How are we supposed to record and store this information, and who is responsible for storing it? Several things have to be put in place to allow virtual asset service providers to be compliant with the Travel Rule,” she said.
Lennon further touched on the topic of secondary market regulations, noting how great it is for companies to now have different licensing options:
“What all the oversight is looking to do is to be a supervisory role and to ensure there are consumer protection rights in there and that companies are well-capitalized and have a compliance program. The process of getting these licenses is tedious and expensive, but there are different options now.”
It’s also important to mention that there was one female artist featured at the event’s Bitcoin art gallery, which showcased an elaborate collection of Bitcoin-inspired artwork from various creators.
Trew Love, a muralist and mixed media artist, told Cointelegraph that she was discovered by NFT Glee — a nonfungible token platform for artists and creators — and was curated within its collection by Evie Phillips, chief marketing officer of NFT Glee.
Love noted that when she heard about the opportunity to join the NFT curation, she began to mint her collection. “I jumped on it and created an exclusive one-of-a-kind piece featuring Mike Tyson and a Bitcoin champion winning belt. I believe Bitcoin is the coin to rule it all,” she said.
While a handful of female speakers discussed relevant topics on stage at Bitcoin 2021, notable female attendees had news to share with Cointelegraph.
Vanessa Grellet, head of portfolio growth at CoinFund, told Cointelegraph that she plans to achieve two main goals moving forward. Grellet noted that CoinFund will take a multi-strategy approach to launch various vehicles related to different strategies such as NFTs, DeFi, farming and more. “We want to create specific vehicles for investors and to focus on those activities,” she commented. Secondly, Grellet explained that CoinFund will be expanding to become bi-coastal, including a location in Miami.
Related: Women-led events may encourage long-term female participation in blockchain
Lisa Nestor, senior director of enterprise ecosystem for the Stellar Development Foundation, told Cointelegraph about a new partnership with Wyre, a blockchain payments company. Nestor noted that the Stellar Network is powering a new Wyre Savings API where fintechs can access yield-earning savings products leveraging USD Coin (USDC) on the Stellar blockchain.
In addition to women discussing company growth and innovation, some ladies shed some insight on the quality of the conference. Mandy Campbell, head of content for OKCoin, told Cointelegraph that she had heard from a lot of inspiring women at Bitcoin 2021:
“It’s clear there are more and more brilliant women pushing Bitcoin forward every day, both building the technology and expanding how it’s used. I saw a lot of passionate female supporters in attendance as well. Bitcoin is for everyone, and the people who participated in the conference reflected that.”
Quality over quantity
Overall, while there were significantly fewer women speakers and attendees than men at Bitcoin 2021, the event was still high-level, informative and fun. Moving forward, though, the Bitcoin community may start to see more women participation at conferences as the topic gains momentum.
For instance, Teodora Atanasova, VIP relations manager and founding team member at crypto-friendly bank Nexo, told Cointelegraph that Nexo sponsored the Bitcoin art gallery at Bitcoin 2021. Atanasova mentioned that she wasn’t previously aware that only one female artist was featured at the gallery. As such, Atanasova said she would make sure that more women are present and featured at Nexo’s upcoming events.
“The Bitcoin 2021 Art Gallery started as a cause — physically bringing together the talent that already had a lot in common conceptually. As a company, Nexo supports various causes, but since we hold financial literacy — and, thus, freedom — for women especially close to our hearts, we’d love to see more female artists step forward and participate as exhibitors at the next Bitcoin Art Gallery going forward.”