Confusion and obscurity still surround cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but a group of analysts is hoping to provide some clarity to local residents.
More than 20 guests attended a cryptocurrency meet-up Saturday afternoon at Mocha Joe’s Cafe, 3633 Cortez Road W. More than half of the attendants had already invested in a form of cryptocurrency.
For Laura Alcover, it began more than three years ago when Henry Raines mentioned his interest in cryptocurrency when he was a client in her Village of the Arts massage parlor. Raines presented the informational event along with guests from his “Henry Raines Show” podcast that discusses the exchange of cryptocurrency.
Alcover became hooked when she set up an account on CoinBase, the marketplace that allows you to store and exchange cryptocurrency and Raines paid for his massage with it in August.
Raines used a digital currency known as Litecoin to make his payment. He did the same for his next few visits to Alcover Massage. After three payments, Alcover held about $30 worth of Litecoin.
She received a text message from Raines about two months later alerting her to a significant increase in Litecoin’s value. The $30 in her account was now worth more than $500.
Alcover said she then began to take cryptocurrency as a serious form of investment and savings. Alcover Massage is one of the first businesses in the Village of the Arts to accept cryptocurrency as payment.
Cryptocurrencies are digital forms of money that operate separately from any sort of central bank, and there’s no physical legal tender. Encryption is used to regulate the production of “coins” and to verify sales and exchanges.
Needless to say, banks and critics are skeptical, but the popularity of this new currency centered around technology just keeps growing and growing. So much so that Raines decided to start hosting monthly meet-ups to discuss the topic.
The first meet-up was held at the end of November. The group met again Saturday to give cryptocurrency investment advice and answer questions. This time, Raines was joined by Alex Solis, who owns a cryptocurrency consulting firm; Lennart Lopin, CTO of Byte Federal; and Andy “Goldbug1” Jonci, a cryptocurrency columnist.
Together, they sang the praises of investing in cryptocurrency to make money. Solis called it an updated version of Wall Street.
“It’s an investment, just like stocks. It’s Wall Street 2.0,” Solis told the crowd. “If this tech is successful, we’ll all be successful. That’s what we’re betting on here.”
When he first got into cryptocurrency trading, Solis said he was working a minimum-wage job and had to alter his spending habits. Instead of buying a soda every day, he would put that money toward investing in digital currency.
“I don’t want to wait until I’m 60 to retire,” Solis said.
Lopin taught the audience about methods to safely store their earnings and investments. Just because cryptocurrencies are digital doesn’t mean you can’t be robbed, he said.
He suggested buying a hardware or paper wallet. Hardware wallets plug into your computer’s USB outlet and store your public and private PIN. A public PIN is used when others would like to send you money.
“It’s your bank — your personal account,” said Lopin. “You can add money and take it out.”
The private PIN is not to be shared and allows a user to convert their cryptocurrency into whichever legal tender they choose online or at cryptocurrency ATMs.
Paper wallets are slips of paper that contain the public and private PIN used to access your account. Lopin said figuring out which one is for you depends on your use case.
There is only one cryptocurrency ATM in Bradenton, Lopin said, and his company owns it. There’s also one in Sarasota and several in St. Petersburg.
Jonci, who goes by Goldbug1 on cryptocurrency trading websites, has amassed a following of more than 18,000 people since he got started writing columns four months ago. When it comes to cryptocurrency, he said, patience is the name of the game.
“I remember back in the ’80s and ’90s, 10 percent a year was a lot of money,” said Jonci. “That was a great return. You can become very wealthy with 10 percent a year over 20 years.”
Jonci suggested that those interested in cryptocurrency should make sure they’re comfortable with focusing on long-term results.
“Don’t try to trade bitcoin. Sit on them, and long-term, the price will go up,” Jonci said. “That’s how you make money.”
Solis agreed and said the best cryptocurrencies to invest in are ones backed by major corporations. For example, Disney backs a cryptocurrency known as Dragonchain. Other companies such as McDonald’s and IBM have taken similar approaches.
Alcover said Saturday’s meet-up was informative, and she knows more about cryptocurrency than before. While Alcover sees cryptocurrency as a way to pad her business’ savings, she also said cryptocurrency is working toward uniting all sorts of people.
“People are so excited for different financial, social and political reasons. There’s something about crypto that touches on so many psyches.”
The next meet-up will take place at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Mocha Joe’s Cafe.