Vancouver is a place of many firsts for bitcoin. It’s home to the first coffee shop (Waves Coffee House) and Indian restaurant (Indian Gate Restaurant) to accept bitcoin, and it’s also the location of the world’s first Bitcoin ATM. The Bitcoin community in the city is largely responsible for all these firsts. To further spread the word about the currency, they started CoinFest – a gathering of people intended to get the word out on bitcoin, its perks, and the tech behind the currency.
The event is “decentralized” and features “multiple venues within close walking distance…each with different events and themes.” Their last event was a month ago, and with more traction, the event organizers are hoping to turn it into an international event that takes place three times a year in different locations around the world. CoinFest is a public outreach initiative and its organizers largely depend on donations and sponsors to keep it free of admission fees. This way, anyone can walk in and learn about the awesomeness that is bitcoin.
We got in touch with the main organizer, Andrew Wagner, and Nathan Wosnack, Founder & CEO, CryptØMiners to discuss CoinFest and bitcoin culture in Canada.
Spelunk.in: Why are you doing CoinFest?
Andrew: To incentivize cryptocurrency adoption, and spread awareness about it to the public.
Spelunk.in: What got you interested in Bitcoin?
Andrew: I am interested in futuristic technology and trends. I am also very libertarian. I started learning about Bitcoin, and I reached out to the Bitcoin community. When I convinced the first restaurant here to accept Bitcoin, I got an amazing response. The Bitcoin community is truly passionate.
Spelunk.in: Are most of the people coming to your events Bitcoin veterans, or the curious public?
Andrew: I tend to attract a higher percentage of new Bitcoiners than other conferences would.
Spelunk.in: How many newbies do you convert per event?
Andrew: I’m not sure exactly how many newbies are converted. It grows with each CoinFest. I’m sure it was a few dozen at the Vancouver event in person. Then there’s the butterfly effect of people hearing about it in the papers and word of mouth, and CoinFests in other cities. Edmonton and Winnipeg probably had some converts.
Spelunk.in: When is the next CoinFest?
Andrew: The next CoinFest is likely to be in late June, due to the wishes of organizers in LA/London, and a possible partnership with someone in Vancouver. It looks like we’re leaning towards having CoinFest 2-3 times a year, with some cities not participating each time. This allows more flexibility for CoinFest organizers, while maintaining a sense of unity among the crypto community.
Spelunk.in: What other cities are you expanding to?
Andrew: Winnipeg and Edmonton are already posted. Calgary may happen for the upcoming one. Puerto Vallarta may happen. Not sure if London will in time. It’s spreading pretty fast.
Spelunk.in: What was your favorite part of CoinFest?
Nathan: It is difficult to name one thing I loved most about CoinFest. Besides the opportunity for Corrina Mantler of Crypt0Youth, her niece and our first scholarship recipient Makaila and I to be the first ones to be interviewed for a podcast, and besides the amazing multimedia side being run by my friend Erik H Rzepka… it would have to be the Sunday @ 11am speech Corrina and I did during the Sunday conference. This was held at SFU’s Segal School of Business being put on by The Bitcoin Co-Op. This was the first time we had ever done public speaking in this capacity… it was both thrilling and frightening, but we pulled it off!
Spelunk.in: How active is the cryptoscene up there?
Nathan: Huuuuge! Vancouver has the largest Bitcoin community in the world in terms of Merchants per capita. Ahead of Berlin, London, NYC, and LA. The Bitcoiniacs people brought the world the first Bitcoin ATM, and the world’s first Dogecoin ATM which was unveiled at the Mining and Hardware demonstration @ Blenz on Howe and Smithe in Vancouver! We have a bunch of non profits, the Bitcoin Co-op, and my company Crypt0Miners launched on January 1st 2014… and 13 days later we launched CryptØY0uth. CryptØY0uth is a scholarships and awareness organization for at risk youth who show a promise in broad areas of technology. CryptØY0uth is a privately-held philanthropic division of CryptØMiners with 97% of all Bitcoin and alt-coin proceeds going to the recipients of our various technology scholarships. So yeah, huge. You all at Spelunk.in ought to come up to Vancouver and check us all out. We’re having another CoinFest conference in April as far as I know.
Spelunk.in:Why is Bitcoin so popular in Canada?
Andrew: There’s a lot of people like me in Canada. Granted, I have expended a lot of effort. I had to get a Bitcoin tattoo, and I quit my nightlife company to find a new one that’s open to Bitcoin. I risked professional relationships by saying I won’t host events if you don’t take Bitcoin. I pretty much do whatever it takes.
At the same time, the Bitcoiniacs are here, and they had the first physical Bitcoin exchange and the first Bitcoin ATM
Other major companies grew here in the aftermath. I got them to place the world’s first Bitcoin ATM at the Waves where my ESL non-profit group meets. Media frenzy ensued. In Vancouver, especially, the demographics are ripe for Bitcoin – tech saavy but liberal/libertarian leanings. Counterculture, but into technology.
Spelunk.in: I see a lot of mention of feathercoin- is it based in the area?
Nathan: They are headquartered in London UK, but they have people from Vancouver BC. What great people. They donated 200 FTC to CryptØYouth. Much love! <3
CoinFest organizers encourage people from all over the world to start their own events using their brand as long as they stay true to the essence of CoinFest. Future events are going to take place in several cities in Canada and around the world, and all events are to happen on the same date. To get updates on the next CoinFest or to donate to the cause, visit the CoinFest site.
Spelunk.in: Where do you see CoinFest in 5 years?
Andrew: I think that in 5 years, CoinFest will be all over the world. Vancouver will not always be the center. I’m thinking one city should host the CoinFest Currency Conference each time, almost like the Olympics. It will become a decentralized international organization, and I will gradually let go of control over it. CoinFest.org will still exist as a central source of information and web portal.