Miami web3 is dead! Long live Miami web3!

Is Miami web3 still ‘a thing’? How have founders adapted to the crypto winter? We spoke to the major players to find out.

By Riley Kaminer

The crypto/web3 space is dead. All the smart founders and startups have pivoted to AI. The web3 universe no longer revolves around Miami.

We’ve all heard the naysayers say things along these lines.

But really: Are the crypto bulls out of the pen (if by pen you mean your favorite Wynwood watering hole)?

At Refresh Miami, our ongoing coverage of the local web3 and crypto landscape, despite the complexities introduced by the recent market downturn, continues to uncover a dynamic community. So, what’s the real state of Miami’s web3 environment? We delve into the details next.

How’s the crypto scene overall?

No matter how you slice it, the crypto world has taken a hit. The global crypto market cap stood at a peak of around $3 trillion in November 2021. It’s more or less been downhill from there – with a two-year low of around $800 in November 2022, when FTX folded.

Bitcoin and Ethereum have both recovered much of their value – BTC stands at just under a third of its all-time high, ETH at just under half. The same cannot be said for other cryptocurrencies, the values of which have broadly been decimated.

What about NFTs? 95% of them have a market cap of, well, 0.

VC deals are also down across the board. According to PitchBook, U.S. VC investments in 3Q23 sat at just over $700 million. That’s a nose dive from 1Q22 figures of $6.12 billion.

What does the crypto downturn mean for Miami web3?

The short answer: a slowdown. Major crypto fundraises had helped South Florida skyrocket to the top of the VC charts – a position we haven’t been able to maintain.

But Anna Gandrabura, the Miami-based founder of language-learning platform English For IT and an organizer of local web3 community The Chain with Monica Rojas, still sees some signs that our local crypto scene is still alive and well.

“Every time we host an event, we meet new people – and they are serious builders,” she told Refresh Miami. “My take is that the ecosystem is still here.” 

The Chain co-founders Anna Gandrabura and Monica Rojas. At top of post: a The Chain event.

A particularly popular recent event The Chain hosted centered on the intersection between web3 and AI. But this was only one of the 15 dinners the group has organized in 2023 thus far, having welcomed upwards of 500 unique attendees since launching in May 2022.

Gandrabura noted that she is a prime example of a founder who incorporated web3 aspects into their company’s offering – in her case, blockchain verification of education credentials – and continues to leverage this technology today.

Lin Dai, co-founder and CEO of Miami-based NFT platform OneOf, broadly echoes Gandrabura’s perspective: “Crypto and blockchain ecosystem in Miami remains strong.”

Dai continued: “While the speculation and fluff has washed out, true builders in Miami like OneOf, Vayner3, and Moonpay are continuing to lay the foundation that will unlock value for consumers and enterprises alike in the next crypto bull market, which is widely expected to be 2024 with the convergence of Bitcoin Halving and imminent approval of spot BTC ETFs from financial giants like BlackRock and Fidelity.”

“At OneOf, our work with enterprise clients from Mastercard and American Express to Warner Music Group on next-generation loyalty technology is quietly gaining momentum even in the ‘crypto winter.’”

Another bullish voice comes from Natalia Karayaneva, CEO of digital real estate transaction platform Propy

“Now we know that Bitcoin is unstoppable – government regulation cannot stop it anymore,” she told us in a recent interview. “We’re very excited to think about next year, when the crypto boom will come and again feed a lot of interest towards Miami.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez at Propy’s 2023 conference.

Alex Taub, co-founder and CEO of Upstream, is also in agreement: “I think it’s been more quiet in Miami but people are still here and working hard. I think Miami is still a top destination for building a web3 startup.”

Saxon Baum, Partner at Florida Funds, is less convinced. “We’re still dubious about the future of the crypto market,” he shared. “We still think that the underlying tech of blockchain is extremely powerful. When there is mass implementation, it will be the tech of the future – but there still isn’t mass adoption.” 

“Until mass adoption happens, I don’t see blockchain or crypto being anything more than an asset you can invest in,” he added, noting that in general he does still believe that these technologies will eventually be widely adopted – but that it will take some time. Baum drew parallels to AI, which is a technology that has been in serious development for decades but only now has been adopted by mainstream consumers.

Nevertheless, Baum doesn’t view the web3 downturn as detrimental to Florida’s tech scene. “It was and is just part of the ecosystem. It’s not a blemish on our record.” 

Much to the contrary, Baum sees it as a positive that the growth in web3 had attracted top talent to Miami. “What matters is that the talent is in Florida and stays in Florida. Companies may fail but individuals will stay and build the next thing.”

Despite it all, builders are building

It is clear that founders are certainly still active. In August, Spearbit raised $7 million to improve security audits in crypto through its open marketplace. NFT Brand Pudgy Penguins continues to push the bounds of 21st century IP monetization, including through a partnership with Walmart. World of Women, whose COO Shannon Snow is based in Miami, has partnered with WS Game Company, the parent company behind Monopoly, to unveil a special edition of Monopoly. Nifty Bridge has launched a suite of tools to help companies build brand loyalty through digital assets. In partnership with Disney, Cryptoys has been dropping a new series featuring Mickey and Friends alongside its popular Star Wars series.

And the list goes on.

“As a whole the industry has faced its share of scandals, like the current case involving former Miami arena sponsor FTX,” said Gandrabura. 

“But beyond those headlines, there’s a deep network of Web3 builders in Miami who have been creating a true community and doing meaningful work.”

Refresh Miami is the go-to resource for everything Miami Tech – including web3. Follow us on LinkedIn to keep on top of our latest stories.


Riley Kaminer