¡Viva Labitconf!

The 10th Latin American Bitcoin Conference in Buenos Aires was the biggest since its inception in 2013.

More than 9000 people came to the Costa Salguero Convention Centre in Buenos Aires to listen to talks and panels by Vitalik Buterin, Jimmy Song, Samson Mow, Elisabeth Stark, Gloria Zhou and 300 other speakers from all around the world.

My personal highlight was an improvised bonus panel with Vitalik, Jimmy, Samson, Juan Llanos, Alejandro Palantzas moderated by Diego Gutiérrez from Rootstock, discussing the current developments around the collapse of the FTX exchange. The lesson we have to learn from this is an old Bitcoin saying: Don’t trust, verify!

Vitalik Buterin

The basic idea of Bitcoin is not to entrust anyone with your money, not Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX nor any other “benevolent dictator” of a financial platform. Everything called crypto has to be decentralised, or it will sooner or later disappear, hopefully not with the users’ money. Anything else is a “Shitcoin” according to the maximalists on the panel, especially Jimmy Song and Samson Mow.

It was interesting to have Vitalik Buterin, the founder and leader of Ethereum on the panel. Bitcoiners see Ethereum as a way too centralised project controlled by a small group of people. To Vitalik’s definition of a “shitcoin”, Samson Mow countered: “But that all applies to Ethereum as well”. It was a very controversial panel with a heated discussion around decentralisation, the way panels should be in my view.

Diego did its best to moderate and build bridges between the panelists, I assume they all had a drink and a laugh afterwards. Despite their differences, “toxic maximalists” and “shitcoiners” are in the same fight against the incumbent financial system.

Rodolfo Andragnes

This anniversary edition of Labitconf played with football stereotypes, as we have the World Cup this year, and Argentinians are crazy about football. It’s co-founder and creative head Rodolfo Andragnes doesn’t care about football at all, but he moderated the event dressed in an Argentinian football dress, a wig and a crazy fan hat, not to forget his trademark two-coloured shoes. One has to be a bit crazy to organise an event like Labitconf every year in a different city, and Rodolfo and his team do it better than anyone else.

Although the focus of Labitconf is clearly on Bitcoin, it is not a maximalist conference. The most well visited talk was the one by Ethereum’s founder Vitalik Buterin, which caused long queues. However, it was one of the weakest talks, as Vitalik speaks very fast and tends to get lost in details. Last year I saw an interview with him in Buenos Aires moderated by Argentinian journalist Olivia Goldschmidt, who managed to tame him and make him show his human sides, but this time he came across as geeky and incomprehensible.

A panel moderated by Ruben Altman (Rootstock)

This biggest Labitconf ever had five different stages with more than a hundred talks and panels…

Cristina Sancho (CEO Taringa), Connie Ansaldi (CEO Carnaval) and Diego Gutiérrez Zaldívar (CEO IOV Labs)

… a crypto art gallery, football pitches, a game area …

… and a huge exhibition space with many boothes of Bitcoin and Blockchain companies.

Although I am happy that so many people could learn about Bitcoin, even in the middle of a bear market and price drop, I personally prefer smaller, more intimate events. I did have some good talks at Labitconf, but naturally it’s hard to connect to people in a gigantic event with so many participants. It was a bit too noisy and crowded for my taste.

Fortunately there are the side events, like the Rootstock Summit or the opening party with laser and light shows at Isla Descanso. The final event for speakers and sponsors was a polo match at the Campo Argentino de Polo. We had a whole restaurant with a good view of the pitch for ourselves. I don’t know much about polo, but I spent most of the time speaking to people anyway.

This was my tenth Labitconf – which makes me the only one except its founders Rodolfo Andragnes and Diego Gutiérrez who has visited them all – and I am looking forward to next year’s edition. Let’s see in which Latin American country it will take place!

By Aaron Koenig