At Art Basel web3 events, experts make the case for crypto amid background of uncertainty

By Riley Kaminer

Despite the crypto market’s midyear meltdown, diamond-handed international investors and innovators still flocked to Downtown Miami this year for Art Basel-themed web3 events.

At two conferences in particular – the MiamiWeb3 Summit at the Intercontinental Hotel and DCENTRAL Miami at the James L. Knight Center – speakers urged attendees to ride out the so-called crypto ‘winter.’

“The colder the winter is, the more people need Miami,” proclaimed Raymond Yuan, founder and chairman of web3 holding company CTH Group. Earlier this year, the firm established its global headquarters in Miami.

Mayor Suarez doubles down on ‘capital of capital’

In explaining CTH’s decision to be based in the Magic City, veteran Chinese tech investor Yuan cited City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s crypto-forward agenda as a key motivating factor.

And for web3 bulls like Yuan, Suarez did not disappoint.

At the MiamiWeb3 Summit, Suarez painted a picture of Miami as “undoubtedly the city of the future,” with crypto as a key focus.

“Crypto is here to stay,” said Suarez, describing web3 as the “new building blocks of today’s economy.”

In Suarez’s estimation, web3 can be an economic driver for all Miamians, “but only if we can capture this moment,” he said.

If web3 is “tsunami of opportunity,” Suarez urged Miamians to ride the wave. “If you asked me if web3 will succeed, I would tell you it will with 100% certainty.” 

Suarez’s advice for anxious investors? “Sometimes you just have to breathe. We have to remember that this technology is new. Not every iteration is going to succeed. Not every company is going to succeed.”

One notable success story, however, is Miami-based Doodles – an NFT project turned web3 entertainment company. In a fireside chat with Doodles CEO Julian Holguin, Suarez cited the startup as an example of Miami’s global web3 prowess.

With companies like Doodles within our city limits, “we have the opportunity to become the capital of capital,” asserted Suarez.

Making sense of the public policy landscape in the wake of FTX

FTX loomed large in attendees’ minds, with Miami as a city placing much of its crypto ambitions on the disgraced company – and a $190 million shrine to the now defunct company located at an arena mere minutes away from these conferences.

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis beamed into MiamiWeb3 from Capitol Hill to share her perspective on regulation, policy, and the Responsible Financial Innovation Act. The bill, which she co-sponsored with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, represents an attempt to create bipartisan legislation over digital assets.

One of the main issues Lummis and Gillibrand are working to tackle: getting everybody on the same page with regards to definitions. “Crypto definitions are going to be important,” she said. “We have certain digital assets that have moved from proof of work to proof of stake. Have they now become securities? How do our definitions dovetail with that?”

Untangling thorny questions like these have already proven challenging, Lummis shared. But she committed to working alongside crypto innovators to better understand the web3 landscape.

“In a way, it is good that the innovation has been occurring unimpeded by regulation and unregulated – even though consumers have been hurt in the process,” said Lummis, describing a “buyer beware” atmosphere in the space. 

“Now, I think that there’s more urgency to move ahead with good regulation that will still allow innovation to occur in the United States, but in a way that protects consumers,” Lummis continued.

A panel featuring international innovation policy researchers cast some doubt on some of these assertions.

“It’s an issue of creating regulatory clarity, not regulation,” commented Ananya Kumar, assistant director for digital currencies at the Atlantic Council. The Tony Blair Institute’s Benedict Cooney echoed these sentiments, noting that it’s crucial to “bring more stability into the [web3] ecosystem” as it becomes more mainstream.

On a more practical note, a conversation with central bank digital currency (CBDC) experts further underscored the challenges facing policymakers. For one, private sector sentiment, as encapsulated by Jared Favole, a senior director at Circle, which sells the USDC stablecoin: “CBDC feels like a solution in search of a problem.”

Spotlight on the opportunity for creators in web3

Down the street at DCENTRAL, creators were at the center of many conversations about web3, NFTs, and the ownership of digital assets.

Rapper Timbaland (pictured at top of post) took the stage to present his pro-web3 perspective. In his opinion, web3 is an exciting opportunity for up-and-coming independent musicians, who no longer have to rely on major record labels to distribute their songs.

“Independents are going to overtake the majors,” he said, arguing that within two to three years, we will see the music community fully embrace web3. “All it takes is a hustler to hustle.”

By his account, Timbaland himself is certainly one of these hustlers. He is in the process of launching a metaverse project and Beatclub, a blockchain-based marketplace for musicians. “We want to build the Amazon of beats,” he said.

Meanwhile, popstar Annie Yi, the self-described “Madonna of China” (which she proved by sharing a brief rendition of “Like a Virgin” with the DCENTRAL audience), shared her thoughts on why NFTs are the future for music.

Along with her son, Harrison Yu, a celebrity in his own right, Yi has launched an LGBTQ-focused NFT project called Theirsverse. “Our project is the first to support LGBTQ artists,” said Yi. “We have no co-founders – NFT projects are created by our entire community,” she said.

One Miami startup is helping to pioneer the NFT creator ecosystem: OneOf. CEO and co-founder Lin Dai graced the stage to make his case for creating more user-friendly web3 tools, having worked with a wide range of artists including Doja Cat and Biggie Smalls’ estate. 

“Education is super important, but it’s on product builders to create easier to use products,” he said, asserting that it would still be difficult for non-web3 (or Web 2.0) native users like his mother to onboard into web3.

“We’re hoping to help the next 100 million people connect with everyday artists through web3,” said Dai.

DCENTRAL exhibit hall was hopping. All photos by Riley Kaminer


Riley Kaminer