What it feels like to be at a Bitcoin Meetup

As I entered a dimly lit bar on I immediately identified my comrades from the D.C. Blockchain Users Group. The Meetup crowd occupied a third of the standing room of the restaurant and produced 100% of excitement. If you came to this bar just for a drink you’d be drawn to the energy of this crowd.

With drinks in hand the people were intensely chatting in small groups of 3 or 4 on topics ranging from the Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to the Bitcoin surge, to cryptocurrency mining. Some arrived at the location an hour before the event, and the last minute change of location from WeWork to a bar didn’t sway the attendance. The energy in the room was fueled by the rapid rise of the Bitcoin valuation. You could actually feel what a rapid jump to $16,000 per Bitcoin (BTC) feels like.

I introduced myself into a conversation led by a man in his 60s. This gentleman has a job that pays him in Bitcoin. That’s a first for me. He was educating two new members about how his and his brothers’ investments were doubling and tripling with no work. He’s been in the crypto space for some time to have his earliest investments disappear in a shady exchange or a wallet. His optimism was contageous.

I grabbed a drink and the local delicacy, Buffalo Cauliflower, and joined the next conversation where I learned about the ICO pump-and-dump practices and sensed group’s excitement of pure speculation. Here we talked about “investments” in altcoins, and tactics for buying and selling the coins after an ICO commences. For example, you want to seek offerings that provide a bonus and try to buy on a pre-sale. These guys sell the coins on a token exchange as soon as they are listed and convert the profits back into Ethereum or some other prime cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin). This felt like a textbook definition of speculation, but the method is no different than buying and dumping IPO shares on a stock market. And this brings me back to the Buffalo Cauliflwer; ICOs are a composition of familiar ingredients put together in a new way. You can read reviews about various ICO recipes on Crush Crypto. In this group everyone agreed that the ICOs are in a bubble, and in 2018 there will be many pops, but nobody seemed fearful.

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful”― Warren Buffett

Half-way through the meeting, the ringleaders paused the chatter and did an informal survey of participants’ interests. Here is what I caught. The vast majority of participants (80 people?) are investing in cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Zcash, Bitcoin, Ether. There were about a dozen developers, about fifteen miners, 25+ ICO investors, and a few day traders. Next, we did rapid-fire introductions for a third of the group. The diversity of professional backgrounds ranged from lawyers to business analysts, to accountants, to programmers, to project managers. The crowd appeared to be diverse with various ethnic and age range composition, but the gathering was mostly dominated by males, probably close to a 15:1 ratio.

It’s now getting late and the crowd is still large and full of energy. The rest of the evening I spent talking with developers about smart contracts and blockchain use cases. Smart contracts are business rules programmed into a blockchain. This is where conversations got very interesting. One of the group members is a key contributor to the PolySwarm: “The world’s first decentralized threat intelligence market.” In this application of the blockchain technology to cybersecurity the participants compete (and get paid) for resolving malware threats. Thoughts that creeped into my mind: what if a malware author is also a solution provider? Will he or she game the system?

The composition of the group was an eclectic mix of personalities with a broad range of experiences. Everyone I encountered that night had a sober and realistic understanding of the bubble perception and unknown future. Above all, the people I encountered beamed with a sense of openness, desire to learn, and willingness to share experiences.

This particular Meetup celebrated its 7th year anniversary this month. This is remarkable, considering that Bitcoin was established 9 years ago, and most of the world only woke up to the cryptocurrency craze in 2017. Kudos to the group’s founders for keeping the fire alive through ups and downs, and sometimes with just 2–3 particiapnts.

Thanks for reading. Feedback is welcome in a form of Ether 0xed3f1eead4aa91cd10aad1c10f486a5cc8547781 and comments @iFirebrand.