Binance Blockchain Week Istanbul 2023 saw global crypto exchange Binance bringing its flagship event to Turkey on Nov. 8–9, where business is conducted in the Turkish lira — a top trading pair on its platform.
While Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao was absent from the event, the Binance c-suite, along with key executives from a full roster of event sponsors, was more than enough to turn Binance Blockchain Week into one of the most packed Web3 events Istanbul has ever seen.
As a city bridging Europe to Asia, Istanbul is no stranger to international crypto and blockchain summits. While most events pick the heart of the city for easy access and nearby hotels, Binance picked a venue on the coastline of the Bosphorus — away from the subway and many other transportation methods — to show its visitors Istanbul’s true beauty.
It’s usually not a problem to visit the main event area without a registration or to get a last-minute ticket at the entrance — at least for most events in Turkey. But, for Binance Blockchain Week, the security was tight and tickets were sold out. Binance’s event team designed a two-floor layout for over 2,000 attendees from all around the world.
Visitors were welcomed by a spacious hall that led to the upper floor, where the main stage and booths were installed. The entry floor offered various activities, including a small hair salon where visitors opted in to get the Binance logo sprayed on their hair, two old-school arcade machines and the startup-focused Innovation Stage.
The importance of the Istanbul event was evident from Binance’s perspective, as the crypto platform kept the big announcement of its Web3 wallet — not to be confused with the Binance-owned Trust Wallet — for this event.
Binance’s head of regional markets, Richard Teng, kicked off the event by introducing the Binance Web3 Wallet to 150 million Binance users.
Starting on a high note, Binance Blockchain Week Istanbul provided keynotes and panels from prominent names of blockchain, crypto, Web3, gaming and entertainment gathered in Istanbul for two days. There were panels to attend or networking opportunities for people from all backgrounds and experience levels.
Binance chief marketing officer Rachel Conlan told Cointelegraph that the exchange considered several cities before picking Istanbul as the destination for this year’s Binance Blockchain Week.
“The city has an incredibly vibrant crypto community, and the strong support we’ve continually received from this local community played a decisive role in our decision.”
Referencing surveys that placed Turkey among the countries with the highest crypto adoption, Conlan noted that this engagement and adoption “reaffirms our long-term commitment to investing in and nurturing the blockchain ecosystem in Turkey, making Istanbul a natural choice for our flagship event.”
The flagship event was missing Binance’s CEO, who is known to adopt a decentralized culture within Binance and even suggested that he might be willing to step down as CEO.
“Effective decentralization means not only the distribution of authority and responsibility but also visibility,” Conlan said.
Binance wants to constantly engage users and ensure consistent presence across multiple forums and regions, and having an experienced team to independently represent the company is crucial to that goal, she added.
Binance and the larger Web3 ecosystem
Even though it was a Binance event, the conference included several other firms and platforms. Tron, Chiliz, Animoca Brands, Zignaly, Alchemy Pay and Trust Wallet were among the booths installed in the sponsor area.
“Binance Blockchain Week has always been about more than just Binance; it’s about building community,” Conlan explained, adding that by fostering collaborations with partners, Binance aims to extend its reach to the larger Web3 ecosystem.
Event participants were also happy with the vivid and dynamic atmosphere they encountered in Istanbul. “We are surprised by the energy and enthusiasm of the Turkey crypto community at Binance Blockchain Week,” said David Uhryniak, Tron’s head of ecosystem development, adding that the most exciting aspects of the event were the stablecoin panel and “the amazing venue next to the Bosphorus.”
More praise for Istanbul’s charm and hospitality came from Abdul Rafay Gadit, the co-founder of the crypto trading platform Zignaly. Commenting on Binance Blockchain Week, Gadit told Cointelegraph, “The event in Istanbul was a success with diverse crypto projects showcasing their long-term efforts, especially given the long bear run.”
One highlight of the event was engaging directly with developers building Web3 for the next billion users, according to BNB Chain’s head of business development, Tomasz Wojewoda. “It was fantastic to meet so many developers that are building in the BNB Chain ecosystem and hear firsthand about how they are benefiting from opBNB’s low gas fees and BNB Greenfield’s decentralized storage,” he said.
Bilal Bin Saqib, a blockchain entrepreneur who featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia, told Cointelegraph that he was fascinated by the discussion on the future of blockchain. “I think the launch of Binance’s first self-custody Web3 wallet was the highlight for me,” Saqib said, noting that the launch opens “countless avenues to the future of Web3 for the masses.”
While the event brought crypto and Web3 enthusiasts from worldwide together, the hype and excitement of the local community were visible. Sunkyu Park, the head of business at decentralized content ecosystem Contentos, said: “The Turkish community's enthusiasm and energy [...] particularly regarding the imminent bull market and the future of blockchain technology like SocialFi and decentralized finance (DeFi), stood out as the most interesting aspect of the event.”
As for Conlan, the “Women in Web3” session on the Innovation Stage was a substantial highlight of the whole event. “The discussion delved into the perspectives of several industry-leading women, covering the intersection of female power and the future of technology,” Conlan said.
Turkey as a hotbed of Web3 innovation
The sponsor area was next to the terrace, where the food and beverages were served. Despite the overwhelming crowd, a rich selection of food was always available. Aside from the main dishes, visitors were lining up to taste local delicacies such as simit (a kind of Turkish bagel), Maras-style ice cream and Turkish coffee.
Visitors from different countries get together in the food line, at the sponsor booths, and over a coffee to talk about Web3, blockchain and crypto within the context of Turkey’s role in the industry while cherishing long-awaited bullish price action in the crypto market.
Highlighting that Turkey has grown to become a significant player in the blockchain space, Binance Turkey general manager Mücahit Dönmez told Cointelegraph that the open collaboration between traditional financial institutions like Turkish banks and crypto platforms shows the forward-thinking approach of the country. “This collaborative business environment stimulates an innovation-friendly atmosphere and is good for the blockchain and crypto sector,” he added.
The declining local economy will contribute to the accelerating crypto adoption in Turkey, according to Bin Saqib. “With the Turkish Lira not showing any significant signs of recovery, I think more and more people will enter the crypto ecosystem in hopes of saving their hard-earned money,” he said.
After two days of sessions, Zhao closed out the event via video call, highlighting the crypto exchange’s efforts in compliance and how Binance is helping lawmakers create regulatory frameworks for digital currencies.
Fielding questions from the audience, the Binance CEO said that the crypto industry is moving toward DeFi, adding:
“I would like to spend more of my time in DeFi, wallets, etc. I think that’s where the real technology innovation is.”
Binance Blockchain Week Istanbul 2023 allowed the Turkish crypto and blockchain ecosystem to boost its visibility through Binance’s global brand.
Bin Saqib said, “Binance has shed light on Turkey’s crypto ecosystem — something not a lot of people knew about, and this will attract other projects, investors and crypto natives to the country as well.”