Vibes hold steady at crypto conferences amid bearish market

It’s been a hard month for the global cryptocurrency market. And yet, community members continue to gather nonstop to network, learn and party at what feels like a seemingly endless loop of crypto conferences.

But there seems to be a slight vibe shift between just a few weeks ago, when I attended FTX and SALT’s joint conference, Crypto Bahamas, to last week, when thousands of people gathered in West Palm Beach for the Permissionless conference, co-hosted by Bankless (and, disclaimer, my former employer) Blockworks.

There was a mixed bag of sentiments from people at the event who are deeply embedded in the crypto world. Some attendees were down bad, others fresh faced, lively and excited to meet others in the space, while many had their heads in their laptops or faces close to their phones as they tried to work and socialize amid talks of a crypto winter. But overall, many attendees seemed unbothered by the current market volatility.

The past month has been tough for crypto market, with its total market capitalization down 29% from $1.9 billion on the month-ago date to $1.35 billion on May 22, according to CoinGecko data.

“Whenever crypto conferences come up, you never know if the market will be bearish or bullish during the week of events,” Ty Blackard, chief product officer at NFTY Labs, said to TechCrunch.

To Permissionless’ credit, its main stage room was packed with over 2,000 people — not to mention smaller breakout rooms overflowing with hundreds of people — and there was only standing room available for many of the sessions. I don’t remember the last time I went to a conference with listener-packed rooms — but from my firsthand look at it, the people attending couldn’t get enough of the content.

“This [time] sucks but also will be good to remove some froth from the ecosystem,” Ed Sim, founder and managing partner at boldstart ventures, said to TechCrunch. “True builders and believers will stick around and keep building.”

I spoke with a handful of attendees at the event who lost their jobs — or feared layoffs — and their whole crypto investments after Terraform Labs’ algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) and cryptocurrency LUNA plummeted over 99% in a matter of a few days, shaking and bringing down the whole crypto ecosystem with them.

What was supposed to be an enjoyable event for many attendees suddenly became a job fair for some as they weaved through the sponsored booths, shaking hands and making small talk with the hope of meeting future potential employers.

Don’t get me wrong — there was a lot of fun throughout the event, too, from a number of open-tab bar crawls to invite-only parties on $40 million yachts and at multimillion-dollar estates. But in a sense, it felt wrong to be celebrating while the crypto economy cratered, or came close to it.