For three days this week, technophiles will descend on Palm Springs to debate the future of Bitcoin, chat about blockchain and, if they want, tip back a cocktail at day’s end.
The first-ever Crypto Springs cryptocurrency conference opens Tuesday night at the Ace Hotel and runs through Oct. 4. Conference co-founder Meltem Demirors said she and a fellow organizer came up with the idea while chatting on Signal, an encrypted messaging app popular in the cryptocurrency community.
“We missed the old Bitcoin conferences that were really small, fairly intimate, very low cost to attend,” Demirors said. “We were like, ‘Wait a minute, what would it take for us to organize a cool conference?’”
So they did.
The event has sold 250 tickets – and at $250 to $1,000 a pop, the passes are far cheaper than larger events, where tickets can go for $2,000 each or more.
The agenda includes a discussion with Jackson Palmer, the creator of the joke cryptocurrency Dogecoin, and Sheila Warren, who heads the World Economic Forum’s blockchain project.
In the Q&A below, conference co-organizer Meltem Demirors talks about bringing new voices to the speaker circuit, the reaction to Crypto Springs’ mostly female lineup and what makes Palm Springs a good place to talk blockchain.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed for length.
What makes Crypto Springs different from other cryptocurrency conferences?
I think at a lot of conferences, you see a lot of the same speakers, who are presenting a lot of the same talks.
What we really wanted to do is find speakers, people we knew who were working on really interesting things, but maybe weren’t as well known in the industry, and especially on the speaking circuit, and give them a platform to share those ideas and thoughts.
We don’t have anyone – quote unquote – announcing anything, like a partnership or a new product. We really just wanted to focus on what’s happening in the industry and not have this be pitch sessions.
At a glance, it looks like most of the speakers are women. Is that unusual for this kind of a conference?
We just looked for the best speakers that we as organizers thought were interesting. Maybe because the organizers, our team, is all female, our networks just happen to be a little different than your average crypto conference organizer.
A lot of the early investors in Bitcoin were male, a lot of the early founders in the industry were. But that’s changing. I think there are a lot of great female engineers, female investors, female entrepreneurs and founders. So, we don’t want to let history be a guide for what happens in the future.
Some people have commented that our event is sexist, which I find interesting. We invited the best people we could. We invited a lot of men who were unavailable to speak due to calendar conflicts. I think it’s sad in the year 2018 that you can’t have a conference where you have a majority of the speakers be female without people assuming something else. A lot of people said, ‘Oh, is this a women’s only conference?’ We’re like, ‘Absolutely not. This is a conference for everyone.’ When you see a conference where 90 percent of speakers are men, you don’t ask, ‘Is this a men’s conference?’
Is there a local cryptocurrency scene in Palm Springs?
There isn’t, no. We looked around, and we haven’t found a lot of crypto stuff in Palm Springs. That was part of our excitement about doing the event there.
We liked the idea of doing it in a location that didn’t have a strong existing crypto community – unlike New York, or Berlin, or Singapore, or San Francisco, where we see a lot of these events.
I do believe we have a handful of local attendees, which we’re really excited about. A few people, when they saw the conference, actually reached out and said, ‘Hey, I live in Palm Springs, I’ve been interested in crypto for a while, but I’ve never really gone to an event. Can I come?’ We were like, ‘Yes, please do!’
Maybe we’ll see the emergence of more meetups, or even companies choosing to locate, or found, in Palm Springs.
Amy DiPierro covers real estate and business news at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. Reach her at email@example.com or 760-218-2359. Follow her on Twitter @amydipierro.