An optimistic gathering
Bitcoin believers, however, remain undaunted. German Montoya, chief strategy officer for the Miami-based venture-building company Rokk3r Labs, said the volume and enthusiasm of attendants at the North American Bitcoin Conference -- far bigger than the roughly 100 people who turned out for the inaugural edition in 2012 -- is evidence that cryptocurrency is destined to take hold.
"For a long time, the only thing you could do with Bitcoin was buy and sell it," Montoya said. "There are only a few coffee shops in the world that take Bitcoin, for example. The more Bitcoin is used for real things, the more this coin will become a real alternative to others."
At the conference, the main exhibition hall was crammed with start-ups hoping to use blockchain technology for everything from Bitcoin ATMs to virtual reality. Dr. Gor Van Ek, a respected figure in the blockchain field, flew in from Australia to promote his latest endeavor, Bitcar, a platform that will allow users to purchase an interest in exotic, rare and classic cars -- a way of investment that has been traditionally exclusive to the wealthy.
"This is the third or fourth year that I've gone to that conference, and I had never seen this sheer scale and number of people who attended," said Hinkes, the attorney. "That signals a certain threshold of consumers have been reached. Bitcoin is starting to make an impact and insinuate itself into the mainstream."
Many of the panels at the conference delved into upcoming regulation that would stabilize Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for both consumers and government entities. That kind of regulation, if successful, could presumably offset Bitcoin's volatility and make it a more viable and dependable medium for large-value transactions.
"Once there are enough things to spend Bitcoin on directly, the real estate market could never be a reason to go back to the dollar," Montoya said. "You could have a whole economy where you use Bitcoin to buy and sell and spend."
The questions, for now, are how long that wait will be and whether Bitcoin's seesawing value can stabilize. Six weeks after all the hubbub, that Bitcoin-only condo in Edgewater still hasn't sold. On Jan. 24, the price on the listing was quietly raised to 37 Bitcoin.
Despite the apparent increase, though, the adjustment actually brought the value of the condo down in dollars -- from $525,000 to $410,000.
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