- Crypto enthusiasts, Web3 founders, and investors convened at Messari Mainnet in New York City this week.
- The tone was firmly upbeat, despite bitcoin, ether, and other digital assets struggling through a bear market.
- Here’s a look inside the event from Insider’s Phil Rosen.
The Messari Mainnet crypto conference in New York drew about 2,000 attendees in person this week, with bullishness still running high and conference-goers ready to party — even as bitcoin and ether, the two largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, are each down more than 60% this year.
“Enthusiasm is definitely back to where we were prior to the bear market,” Shahzad Nathani, head of partnerships at blockchain firm Shardeum, told Insider at Pier 36, the east Manhattan location of the conference.
The NFT market, like crypto, has cratered in 2022. In the week leading up to Mainnet, the market valuations for two of the most popular collections, Bored Ape Yacht Club and Cryptopunks, slid by 21% and 19%, respectively.
A ticket to the three-day Mainnet conference cost $2,100, granting access to three days’ worth of panels featuring nearly 300 speakers ranging from ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin to smaller asset managers and execs in the space.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Nathani said. “People are focused on how to build for the future, so we don’t fall into the trap of being just a speculative space. I think we’re ready for the next leap in the next six months to a year.”
“The bear market just means more building”
Nathani, like a dozen other attendees I spoke to this week, is shrugging off the crypto winter and is increasingly upbeat about what comes next.
Some pointed to promising venture capital funding — how angel investors are still willing to put money into promising startups. Others highlighted new partnerships that came to fruition this week during late-night, rooftop shindigs or over handshakes and coffee.
“The bear market just means more building,” Brandon Rochon, lead data scientist at Covalent told Insider.
Echoing that, Brandon Neal, COO of Euler Labs, explained that Mainnet feels optimistic because the industry continues to mature. Those who have been in the crypto space for long enough, he said, understand the next wave of crypto adoption is still coming, whether the economy is choppy or not.
Lisa Fridman, president of metaverse company Quadrata, said a shaky market actually opens the door for founders, because investors have a clearer picture of winners and losers in the space.
“In a more challenging environment, it’s easier to identify stronger, more attractive opportunities, because in a stronger market there’s just a lot of hype and capital around so many projects,” Fridman told Insider.
“We’ve had many deep conversations about where the space is headed, how to improve products, how to grow adoption and how to retain new users in the next cycle,” Rochon added. “There’s less noise to sift through and everyone is focussed on building better products.”
After parties, rooftop parties, yacht parties
As with events in any industry, Mainnet had its share of festivities once the day’s discussions were concluded.
Tuesday through Thursday, I attended 10 Mainnet-sponsored occasions and satellite events. Most of the people I spoke to at these receptions were still bullish on crypto, even as it struggled through its bear market, but were also keen to point out the importance of the community events like Mainnet emphasize.
At a cocktail event on the 76th floor of the World Trade Center, one blockchain company staffer told me she expected the sense of community around the conference to remind people why they got involved in the digital asset space in the first place.
On each rooftop I ended up throughout the week, I had similar conversations with conference-goers.
I spoke to founders in the crypto and Web3 space that promised to deliver projects with tight-knit communities and real-world utility. Others told me about new play-to-earn video games based on blockchain technology, whereas others were set on “phygitals,” a new mix between physical and digital spaces or products. The emphasis and excitement for new projects was high, and seemingly undeterred by this year’s tough market.
On Thursday night, a yacht party was charging $1,000 per person to attends (a separate cost from the $2,100 ticket to Mainnet). The boat took patrons out for four hours of festivities on the East River.
While surely a blast, more than one attendee noted the disconnect in tone between such lavish events and the reality of a crypto market that’s fallen from a $2.8 trillion total value last November to less than $1 trillion this week.
Philip Shoemaker, founder of Identity, a nonprofit focused on identification services, admitted that the bubble has burst this year, but said that can create forward momentum.
“This is when this community comes together in unique and supportive ways,” he said. “We’ve been through this type of market before and we’ll continue to grow together.”