For a lot of people, Denver’s National Western Complex means livestock and rodeos. But thousands of people from around the world recently converged there to talk about cryptocurrency.
“With those events, it'll smell like cows and horses. Now it smells like nerds and learning,” said Michael Perlin, an attendee at ETHDenver, a massive convention dedicated to the technology behind digital currencies like Bitcoin.
The event started in Denver in 2017, although this was the first time it was held at the giant event center on the city’s western edge.
Gov. Jared Polis is intent on putting Colorado at the forefront of the cryptocurrency craze, making the state a natural fit for such an event. Last year, Colorado became the first state to let people pay their taxes with cryptocurrencies.
So far, the plan hasn’t gotten much traction, with cryptocurrency accounting for just 11 payments worth about $20,000.
That’s not likely to change anytime soon. The world of cryptocurrencies has had a rough time lately. High-profile frauds and scams have a lot of people questioning the sector’s long-term viability. Meanwhile, the value of digital tokens has collapsed leading to huge losses for investors. On top of all that, most businesses still won’t accept cryptocurrency as payment.
But even so, it’s always good for business when a large event comes to town, giving Colorado a chance to shine. The line to get into the show stretched around the corner. The state seemed to be making a good impression.
Ben Hanchett came from New Orleans. It was his first time in Colorado.
“When I was leaving the airport, I saw the iconic Coors Mountain shot, so yeah, that was nice,” Hanchett said.
He had some other quintessential Colorado things on his to-do list for the week.
“One of our guys got a brewery list together and we're gonna hit the breweries,” Hanchett said.
Ben Gibbs made the trip from North Carolina. He said the mountain view helped pass the time while he was waiting to get in.
“It's gorgeous just being able to gaze at that. It's made standing in this line much more bearable,” Gibbs said.
Parth Agarwal and Arun Jena came all the way from India. They say they’re working on a product that can help repair the industry’s unsavory reputation and root out scammers.
“We are trying to bring rules and regulations and we are trying to bring government and crypto together,” Agarwal said.
In addition to the educational sessions and exhibition floor at the western complex, the two-week festival involves parties and hackathons throughout the Denver area. The event is wrapping up this week with a snowboard and ski retreat in Breckenridge.
Agarwal and Jino have never hit the slopes, but they aren’t ruling it out.
“We don’t have that kind of opportunity in our country. So, if we have to do it, it’ll be our first time over here,” Jena said.
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