The second and final day of the Florida Bitcoin & Blockchain Summit built off the momentum of its opening day, beginning and ending with big announcements and featuring about 20 more intricate presentations inside Amalie Arena.
During her welcoming address, Tampa mayor Jane Castor announced she would accept her salary in bitcoin.
Celsius, a financial platform where consumers can earn, borrow and pay with cryptocurrency on the blockchain, and a key sponsor of the summit, offered to facilitate the transaction. A spokesperson for Castor later clarified the mayor will receive two paychecks in the apex cryptocurrency. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez recently became the first U.S. mayor to accept his salary in bitcoin and was then joined by New York’s newly-elected mayor, Eric Adams.
Elected officials receiving any portion of their salary in bitcoin is a boon to crypto enthusiasts, who see it as yet another sign the burgeoning currency and technology is gaining mainstream acceptance.
“Blockchain is the future of transactions – without a doubt,” said Castor in a video posted to her Twitter account. “And look at the explosion of cryptocurrency. So, we’re very excited to be hosting this right in the City of Tampa, and we want to be the leader in blockchain and cryptocurrency.”
Nuke Goldstein, co-Founder of Celsius, immediately followed Castor and explained how cryptocurrency is “the people’s money.” Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco further exemplified how local leaders believe in the blockchain and cryptocurrency.
“We hear about bitcoin is the future, crypto is the future, I heard that 10 years ago,” explained Maniscalco. “The future is now; the future is here. This is the way the world is going.”
Maniscalco said cryptocurrency represents the largest transfer of wealth in modern history. Like many others, he believes crypto provides access to wealth, can lift people out of poverty, and make the world a better place. Maniscalco encouraged people not to be afraid of new financial technology, open their minds, and embrace the future.
Blockspaces co-Founder Gabe Higgins explained to a packed crowd how Web 3.0 will change the internet. Higgins said Web 3.0 will introduce new infrastructure and will deal with new networks and decentralization. New tools and applications are then needed to “talk” to the new networks.
“It’s a different language, so there’s a translation barrier there if you will,” said Higgins.
Higgins then explained how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) solve problems with counterfeiting, whether it’s media files, artwork or luxury goods. An NFT is a digital asset that links ownership of an item, which is securely recorded on a blockchain.
“This technology is going to be the foundation of a whole new architecture and infrastructure that will mitigate against those types of fraudulent activities,” said Higgins. “That’s what we’re building towards – a more transparent, equitable world, using a technology that’s secure, immutable, and it can’t be hacked or forged or manipulated in any way.”
Higgins said Blockspaces is searching for new uses for blockchain technology within business settings, such as supply chain management systems. He noted the disruption the pandemic has caused to the global supply chain and believes blockchain can reduce the friction caused by different systems “speaking different languages.”
“Siloed information is causing so much friction that we can’t transact,” said Higgins. “Blockchain solves all that.”
Higgins told the crowd his work with blockchain completely altered his mindset. He explained the technology and cryptocurrency go deeper than simply trying to make a bunch of money.
“Like Nuke said earlier, ‘We’re not here for number go up, number down,’” relayed Higgins. “If you are here for that, Godspeed because you’re probably going to get wrecked.
“What we’re here for is to fundamentally change how things are working.”
The day began to close with a fireside chat between Embarc Collective Founder Lakshmi Shenoy and ARK Invest Founder Cathie Wood. Attendees packed into the Celsius Main Stage area to hear a lengthy discussion with the innovation pioneer. The standing-room-only crowd stretched well beyond the view of the stage.
Wood said she looks forward to working with community partners such as Embarc Collective to bring people from all parts of the country – and possibly the world – together to explain how advances in financial technology will change their lives and stressed the importance of educating children in a way that inspires them to embrace the changing landscape.
“Innovation solves problems, and we have a lot of problems,” said Wood.
The night closed with a special presentation of the Innovation Catalyst Award to business mogul (and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena) – Jeff Vinik. Florida Bitcoin & Blockchain Summit Founder Chris Krimitsos noted Vinik’s many philanthropic endeavors, his support of area startups and the financial technology industry, and his transformation of downtown Tampa.
St. Pete Catalyst publisher and Head of Network for Metacity Joe Hamilton presented Vinik with the award – a metal Fluent coin engraved with Vinik’s face and a corresponding NFT. Fluent is the native token of the Catalyst Metacity.
Vinik told the crowd he could not wait to tell his kids he received his first NFT and looks forward to when the award is worth $69 million. He also thanked Castor for her hands-on approach to fostering growth in the region.
“This is why Tampa is awesome,” explained Vinik. “Our mayor is always here to greet every company, to welcome every company, to talk to every company, and talk them into coming to the Tampa Bay area. That’s why we’re on fire.”
Vinik said he was at least 1% disappointed that Wood chose St. Petersburg over Tampa, but noted the close-knit relationship the two neighboring cities enjoy.
“But we rise as a region and we fall as a region,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have you bring yourself and all your intellectual talent to the area, it’s a great endorsement, and it’s great to have you here.”
Vinik closed by stating that from St. Pete to Tampa to Orlando, he believes this will be the fastest-growing region in the country.
“We’re so honored to have this conference here,” exclaimed Vinik. “We’re so honored to develop this hub, this critical mass of blockchain companies. It means the world to us.”