[Editor’s note: CoinFest was founded in Vancouver, where it was last spearheaded by Andrew Wagner of the Bitcoin Co-op.]
What is CoinFest?
When CoinFest started in 2013 as a relatively small gathering of 100 or so Bitcoiners, celebrating the adoption of Bitcoin at a Waves Coffee House in Vancouver, it was conceived as a way to incentivize cryptocurrency acceptance while educating the public about its importance and use. Its popular success prompted the Bitcoiniacs (now CoinTrader) to place the world’s first Bitocin ATM there.
By 2014, CoinFest was growing in popularity, and that year it took a new direction: CoinFest spread across Canada and now internationally, exemplifying the border–defying and decentralized nature of crypto. Vancouver leads the way again by booking multiple venues simultaneously for a less centrally organized variety of exhibits, as Satoshi would have wanted.
To about how CoinFest works, go here.
It sounds hard to believe now that it has spread to twelve cities and counting, but a lot of people used to tell me that CoinFest couldn’t work. How do we keep it free, with all of the costs involved? How do we pull it off without the use of state-backed money, simultaneously at multiple events in cities around the globe?
CoinFest didn’t have a lot of finances, real institutional backing, or any legal recognition when it started. It had a structure rooted in the decentralization movement, designed purely to change society for the better. This attracted Bitcoiners pure of heart who gathered from various Meet Ups, hack dens, and online forums.
Eventually, executive control of CoinFest and all of its assets will be turned over to a decentralized autonomous organization, as a part of the open source movement. For now, however, it is the Bitcoin faithful who preserve its operation and values, and exploring the world of CoinFest will take you through a diverse cast of characters from many different backgrounds.
Vancouver was the birthplace of CoinFest back in 2013. I signed up the first few Meet Up venues in Vancouver to accept Bitcoin alongside the Bitcoin Co-op, one of them being a Waves Coffee House, which we celebrated with a miniature convention.
When CoinTrader acquired the world’s first Bitcoin ATM, that helped inspire them to bring it to Waves. They became the main sponsor of CoinFest 2014. The scene has grown significantly since then, with many advocates and even more ATMs and companies.
This time, CoinFest will last 3 days. Sunday will again be the conference, now held at a venue that accepts Bitcoin directly. Friday will contain a few surprises, and Saturday will be a multi-venue extravaganza of decentralized activity across Vancouver. Prepare yourselves!
I met Josh Nekrep on an Internet forum. That might sound underwhelming, but I’ve met a surprising amount of influential people this way. We’ve yet to meet in person, but from our Facebook conversations, I’ve found him to be friendly, logical, and constantly annoyed with the government at large.
He and Peter Dushenski in Edmonton were the first to bring CoinFest outside of Vancouver, and Josh is now returning to round up Winnipeg once again! For CoinFest 2014, he signed up a new Bitcoin restaurant and brought it a Bitcoin ATM--who knows what he’s got in store for 2015?
Here’s how I knew I could trust Adam O’Brian: when he started signing up merchants to use the Bitcoin Co-op’s open source POS system, he didn’t tell me he was doing it. I’ve gone to great lengths to incentivize people to promote Bitcoin, but aside from being invested in his Bitcoin company, Adam’s only motivation seemed to be love for the cause.
Bitcoin Solutions sponsored CoinFest Edmonton in 2014, and is returning February 20 as the lead organizer. Following in Vancouver’s footsteps as a fellow Canadian leader in Bitcoin adoption, Edmonton’s CoinFest will now span two days and multiple events. We’ll see if he can continue where Pete left off!
Vina del Mar
Gabriel Scheare remains the most resolute anarcho-capitalist I know. While we disagree in our precise schools of thought, his uncompromising dedication to individualism has earned my respect and a healthy stash of bitcoins. It came as no surprise to me when he volunteered to be the first to bring CoinFest outside of Canada.
Gabriel has since gone off to Chile, to follow his dreams of lawlessness. Moving, planning, and working have kept him busy as he plots the establishment of Fort Galt until now. He’s vowed to be ready this February, which finally brought CoinFest outside of Canada.
Mexico has been on CoinFest’s radar for a while, now, for many reasons. One of them is Pablo Gonzalez, who returned there when he cofounded Bitso, a renowned Mexican Bitcoin exchange. He was a local Bitcoin Co-op member when I knew him, and designed the CoinFest logo.
Now that CoinFest has gone international, and he has a bit more time, he’s decided to bring the fun to his home country! Pablo hopes to use this opportunity to convince many businesses to accept Bitcoin while partying by the sea. Good luck!
The Bitcoin Embassy is finally participating in CoinFest thanks to the cooperation of Francis Pouliot. He and I got off to a rocky start due to my initial skepticism, a product of previous experiences. Now we’re proud to call Bitcoin Foundation Canada a partner.
Francis has already provided considerable support to CoinFest, and is planning fun activities and talks at the Embassy. Given some of his previous presentations to TEDx and the Canadian Senate, he might be a speaker himself!
Fortaleza & Punta del Este
CoinFest has made considerable inroads into Latin America thanks to the cooperation of Cryptor Trust. They’re a community and bank-free (all Bitcoin) investment fund, where I met Helio Silva. He immediately fell in love with the idea of CoinFest, and is bringing it to Brazil, South America’s largest economy.
Soon I was appointed to the International Council of the Cryptor Foundation, designed to support initiatives like CoinFest. Also on the Council are Gabriel Drach, who will organize CoinFest Uruguay 2015 in one of Latin America’s most progressive countries, and Maximiliano Garcia, who will help in Brazil alongside Helio.
The Toronto Bitcoin scene has long been supportive of CoinFest. Vitalik Buterin himself came to Vancouver to present at CoinFest 2014, and Anthony Di Iorio paid us a visit as well. Unfortunately, Decentral was too busy to join us at the time.
All that has changed this year, however. Decentral in Toronto will be participating in CoinFest 2015, bringing on board another of the world’s largest Bitcoin centers. Anyone who remembers what the Bitcoin Expo was like is excited already!
Gaborone & Kumasi
The Bitcoin Botswana Lady has been featured on every major cryptocurrency news outlet as well as VICE. She loved the ideals of CoinFest and her list of accomplishments was impressive given the circumstances. She is a perfect choice to bring CoinFest to Africa.
One of the Bitcoin Co-op’s directors had a Skyhook BTC ATM lying around he didn’t want, and I realized they could find a use for it in Botswana. It has been donated by the Taurus Bitcoin Exchange, and its arrival will be celebrated as part of CoinFest at Ms. Itreleng’s upcoming Bitcoin shop. Both websites are under construction!
“Alah,” as they call her, also has a lot of followers in Africa, whom she is bringing on board to help. The first is “Nana” from Ghana; he is the designer of DreamCoin and the founder of the Dream Bitcoin Foundation. His plan is to get Kumasi Polytechnic accepting Bitcoin in time for CoinFest Ghana 2015!
CoinFest first landed in Europe when Francis Pouliot introduced me to Federico Pecoraro, who introduced me to a number of others from Robocoin Italy and the Cashless Way Association. They quickly jumped on board.
They have experience organizing large events in the past, and CoinFest is negotiation with organizers in multiple other European cities as it attempts to conquer the traditional financial system. It is becoming the world’s largest Bitcoin convention--more like a holiday, celebrated globally in defiance of borders, government-secured currency, and other myths of the state.
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