It was not the ideal time for a celebration of the cryptocurrency industry. But the hall was booked, the guests had arrived, and so the show went on.
On Wednesday, shortly after Sam Bankman-Fried gave a live streamed interview to The New York Times seeking to dispel the notion that he was the Bernie Madoff of the blockchain, a few hundred people piled into the Faena Forum in South Beach, Miami, for the Cryptic, an awards ceremony billing itself as the Oscars for Web 3.0.
By night’s end, they would learn the winners in 10 categories, including NFT Project of the Year and Metaverse Project of the Year. The event was organized by Decrypt Studios, a film and production company financed by Joseph Lubin, a co-founder of the cryptocurrency platform Ethereum.
In June, when the Cryptos were announced, Bitcoin and Ethereum had lost about half their peak value in an industry wide crash that caused nearly $1 trillion to go up in a puff of virtual smoke. That was followed by the recent crumbling of Alameda Research and FTX, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s trading platforms, a multibillion dollar implosion that has further shaken the industry.
The financial fiascos weren’t enough to cancel the Cryptos. The Forum, an arts and culture space designed by Rem Koolhaas, had been reserved months earlier. Invited guests had flown in from around the country.
The dress code was Black Tie Optional. But in an industry where anything other than sweatpants is considered formal, and the person hired as the gala’s M.C. was Josh Ostrovsky, the comedian known as The Fat Jewish, the emphasis fell squarely on optional.
At around 7 p.m., a D.J. played Avicii’s remix of Coldplay’s “A Sky Full Of Stars,” accompanied by a violinist who goes by the name Tamara. Waiters served miniature lobster rolls. The guests’ cocktail chatter alternated between gallows humor and proselytizing about the inevitable transformation of humankind through next-gen tech.
Josh Thompson, who runs two companies that use the blockchain to spur community activism, Gotham Labs and Civics Unplugged, was among the attendees. One minute, he was introducing himself to a reporter as none other than Mr. Bankman-Fried. The next, he was saying that, despite a disastrous year for cryptocurrency, the industry’s future looked bright indeed.
That was the basic opinion held by Izzy Howell, a 29-year-old entrepreneur with magenta-colored hair who is attempting to bring together fashion and NFTs with a limited edition pair of women’s panties emblazoned with the phrase “highly liquid.”