South by Southwest is a medley of multiple disciplines. A three-mile radius around the Austin Conference Center transforms the city into a confluence of tech, art, music, film, and culture– and crypto and web3 seemingly finagled their way into everything.
As such, we got a snippet of everything– including late-night DAO concerts and parties, warehouse NFT art galleries doubling up as house music venues, to mid-day tech-oriented panels hosted in house takeovers on Rainey Street, where some of crypto’s brighter minds battled in a Sisyphean competition with live country and rock music a few doors down at the Fort Worth house takeover.
The only thing not marred with crypto fingerprints was a panel on psychedelics featuring leading researchers and Tim Ferriss– the psychedelics and crypto industries tend to keep to their own professional ecosystems, although their participants may dabble in both.
All of this, of course, has the usual Austin SXSW guarantees:
fully remote teams making first IRL impressions amidst the perils of open bars, techies familiarizing themselves with the sidewalk curb via Lime scooter, wraparound lines for brand activations, Uber surge pricing, metabolic slumps following ungodly quantities of barbecue and tacos, crowds weeknight barhopping still adorned with SXSW laniards, and enough free energy drinks to make one’s frontal lobe vibrate.
Despite the omnipresent chaos, everything flows; SXSW built its reputation as such since it started in 1987.
CoinCentral was on the scene to explore– are crypto and web-3 integrating well into a pillar vertical for events like SXSW?
SXSW 2022 vs. SXSW 2019
We covered SXSW in 2019, the year following a crypto winter where a precipitous fall in cryptocurrency prices forced many new crypto startups to shut down shop. While financially turbulent, the crypto winter is considered by many as the cold shower the industry needed to clear its focus on the innovation that matters.
As Gemini founders, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss noted in their 2019 SXSW talk, “crypto winter” was a good time to build.
There wasn’t an in-person SXSW for 2020 or 2021, so this was the event’s first year back.
The cryptocurrency industry boomed since then, with Bitcoin’s price quadrupling from its previous all-time high, an explosion of DeFi activity (DeFi Summer 2020), and a Renaissance for NFTs and web3.
How was the pulse on the street of 2022 SXSW crypto crowd different from that of 2019?
“For starters, every conference this past year has turned into some sort of web-3 event,” says Troy Osinoff, Co-Founder at Zurp. “From Art Basel to SXSW, crypto– mainly NFTs and other web3 extensions– is no longer confined to niche trade shows.”
Builders Will Build
If the 2019 SXSW crypto track was built around a core of builders that had been in crypto prior to 2017, 2022 crypto crowd included more of the next generation of innovators and nouveau-rich.
Now, while our review of crypto at SXSW has plenty of playful jabs at cryptocurrency at large (some well-earned), we continue to be inspired by this industry. The velocity of innovation (+ capital) and a spirit of goodwill are native to the cryptocurrency ecosystem (hence, WAGMI).
“Old” crypto money is in its third, fourth, and fifth crypto chapters, building the next project or advising new entrepreneurs.
The people that made large long-term votes of confidence were able to realize the benefits; think early Bitcoin, CryptoPunk, Ethereum holders. Many of them also sway young– some, to add to their good luck and fortune, haven’t even started getting grey hairs yet (maybe another bear market will change that.)
These people don’t typically “exit” crypto– they attempt to grow their fortunes by navigating the complex crypto web of projects and investment avenues that only those with deep industry experience in the space are capable of doing with any modicum of efficiency or focus
However, a new era of builders was able to spin up quick fortunes; for example, many holders of Bored Ape Yacht Club, a project that launched in April 2021, now have multi-million dollar NFT portfolios.
The experience and borderline satisfactory intoxication of building a fortune on being very right about something that was ridiculed by the vast majority of people is a merit badge shared by many of crypto’s old and new money.
While the rug pulls and hacks that plague crypto are sure to make headlines, the seamless ongoing collaboration between new industry players and veterans is a moral victory not being discussed often.
“Hey, I’m catgangfart93 on Discord, great to meet you in person”
As decentralized amoeba loosely connected by Discord servers, Telegram chats, and ownership of a common collection, NFT communities tend to inherently lack a palpable in-person dynamic. In a way, SXSW was sort of a company offsite for various NFT communities.
Project hosted events of varying production and sophistication.
The most elaborate NFT event was a toss-up between Doodles and Fluf World:
- Doodles transformed a warehouse into a Doodle world, a galore of rainbows, noodles, and a variety of quirky Doodle-branded things. It also featured stations hosted by derivative projects, such as the Noodles, which had a ramen noodle booth. The daytime event had a line wrapping around the building.
- A few blocks away, Fluf World held a nighttime mini music festival inside multiple domed tents.
“One of the most raved executions, was the simplest,” says Mike Kriak, Managing Operating Partner at Consensys Mesh. “Pussy Riots performance to launch UnicornDAO, which she developed as stewards. UnicornDAOs mission is to empower women and LGBTQ+ NFT artists; and it was great to see such an on-brand DAO event in a very fun real-world event.”
Other projects hosted lackluster appearances in comparison; Cool Cats had a teeny weeny pizza party, reminiscent of a shoestring budget high school extracurricular club party– but maybe that’s part of the charming appeal of the community.
It’ll be interesting to see how a physical in-person NFT event impacts the floor price of the assets.
The floor price of Doodles went from about 11.5 ETH prior to SXSW to 17.62 ETH after the event– a jump of about $20,000 per Doodle. The floor price of Cool Cats didn’t really change much, dipping down by 1.5 ETH before coming back up to about 9 ETH.
Who knows– we’re not here to analyze the bottom-line impact of a pizza party on .JPEG prices. BUT, if YOU want to, you have the beauty of a publically available ledger and wallet transfers available to you.
Final Thoughts: SXSW Crypto
Crypto at SXSW maintained many of the core “builder” elements of the quieter crypto days but also introduced the world to the many various in-person applications of NFTs– from NFT music releases, in-person events, mainstream panels on web 3 innovation, and various developer meetups throughout the city.
The ongoing NFT hype is often compared to that of the ICO craze in 2017, where a dizzying array of new coins and tokens attracted investors and speculators alike. However, NFTs differ in one key way– the authenticity of community is leagues beyond what we saw in 2017.
Some of the representations of the NFT community bare similarities to the ICO craze– wrapped lambos, guerrilla marketing campaigns of plastering obscure project QR codes on every lamp post, and such. But, that should distract that the core of the movement seems much more tempered than that of its comparison.
However, two broader trends distinctly remained from both years:
- The “I missed out on crypto, it’s too late now” archetype is still there, just applied to NFTs and other emerging projects.
- The space is bursting at the seams with ideas, but short on operators.
We look forward to seeing cryptocurrency’s presence at multi-theme conferences such as SXSW grow, but we hope it does so in a sustainable manner that plays closer to the true value of cryptocurrency rather than speculation.