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Bitcoin and Blockchain Summit celebrates the wins

Mark Parker



Tampa Mayor Jane Castor kicked off Friday's summit by reaffirming her hopes that Tampa Bay can become a national leader in the industry. Photos by Mark Parker.

A bear market didn’t dampen the mood at the Florida Bitcoin & Blockchain Summit (FBBS), as its myriad of speakers focused on new achievements rather than price fluctuations.

Friday’s summit was a decidedly scaled-down version of the inaugural Tampa event, held at Amalie Arena last November. Chris Krimitsos, founder of the FBBS, expressed his sincere excitement to see everyone filling the Holiday Inn Westshore’s conference room, as the occasion was about the people that continue to believe in the new technology’s applications rather than a venue.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor kicked off the event by once again welcoming attendees to the city. While she didn’t offer to accept a portion of her salary in bitcoin as she did at last year’s summit, she did reaffirm her belief in the security of blockchain technology and the financial equity provided by the apex cryptocurrency.

Castor noted that officials need to “figure out” national and global regulations regarding cryptocurrencies. She also relayed that city government moves slowly but said she continues holding regular conversations regarding potential applications.

“And so, we are continuing to learn,” said Castor. “I’m very excited to support everybody in this endeavor, and we will definitely figure this out and move forward as a nation. And hopefully, we’ll be looked upon here in the Tampa Bay area as one of the leaders in bitcoin and blockchain.”

With bitcoin’s value plunging by about 66% since last November’s bull run, organizers aptly titled the event’s first panel “Spotting Opportunities in a Bear Market.” Joshua Jake, a crypto research analyst and co-founder of the educational CryptoKnight platform, told attendees that a bear market is a time to study and explore the industry.

While he believes the downturn could be an opportune time to find a “hidden gem,” Jake said the most critical aspect is that industry leaders continue developing new applications. He added that stakeholders are also witnessing mass adoption.

Chris Pizzo, co-founder and general partner for Tampa-based Druid Ventures, said stakeholders keep their fingers on the pulse of exciting innovations and continue sending promising ideas to his company.

“The builders are going to build regardless of the price fluctuations,” said Pizzo. “So, that’s what our edge is.”

The panelists encouraged attendees to ignore outside noise and follow the developers creating new applications and interoperability between blockchain and legacy systems.

Blockspaces, a Tampa-based blockchain integration platform, is one of those companies. Co-founders Gabe Higgins and Rosa Shores announced a significant breakthrough at the summit as part of their new Lighting Connect product.

Gabe Higgins (right), co-founder of Tampa-based Blockspaces, made a major announcement at the summit.

The Lightning Network built new layers of technology over traditional bitcoin protocols, enabling companies to process millions to billions of transactions per second. In addition, Lightning Finance – or LiFi – offers security enforced by blockchain smart contracts with much smaller fees than credit card transactions.

Higgins announced Blockspaces is the first company to successfully integrate the Lightning Network with Quickbooks, the popular business and financial management suite.

“You can accept payments now from anywhere in the world using bitcoin, and low fees,” he said.

Kyle Kemper, chief solutions officer for Bradenton-based RAZE, author and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s half-brother, expressed his belief that bitcoin is the answer for the corruption that permeates centralized financial institutions.

He spoke during a charity luncheon that raised money for those impacted by Hurricane Ian and explained how blockchain technology facilitates a shift into a parallel, decentralized economy. He encouraged attendees to help people understand the technology by sending them a small amount of cryptocurrency.

“We didn’t really understand email until we actually sent an email,” said Kemper. “And the same is true with bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. It’s very complicated in the background …”

From left: Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst and head of network for Cityverse; Gabe Higgins, co-founder of Blockspaces; Yuki Taketani, emerging technologies coordinator with the Tampa Bay Rays; and Lauren Prager, chief strategy officer for Synapse Florida discuss Tampa Bay’s emerging Web3 scene.

Higgins also participated in a panel with Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst and head of network for Cityverse, and Yuki Taketani, emerging technologies coordinator with the Tampa Bay Rays. Lauren Prager, chief strategy officer for Synapse Florida, moderated the discussion titled “Tampa Bay’s Emerging Web3 Scene.”

In addition to the weather, quality of life and lack of a state income tax, Hamilton believes Tampa Bay offers a nice juxtaposition to Miami’s fast and fun atmosphere. While the South Florida region is a known blockchain and crypto hub, he said the local scene might be more appealing from a utility standpoint.

The St. Petersburg community’s support, noted Hamilton, is also unparalleled. He relayed that he would have never found the same success in another city without “the bigger guys” eating him alive. That, he explained, is due to local stakeholders realizing that individual accomplishments propel the entire region.

“That whole ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ is absolutely true within the Tampa Bay market,” said Prager. “We want to celebrate the wins. I don’t know if that’s true in every community, but it is – for sure – true here.”


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