This weekend has seen two large gala evening events hosted by large Chinese bitcoin exchanges: Huobi’s first anniversary celebrations on Saturday and the ‘One Night in Beijing with OKCoin’ mini-conference on Friday.

Both took place at five-star hotels in Beijing, with attendees numbering several hundred for each event. Each event featured an exhibition of Chinese bitcoin companies that included app developers, ATM manufacturers and mining hardware makers.

Audience at OKCoin's main event on Saturday nightAudience at OKCoin’s event on Saturday night

Chinese bitcoin news site Bitell reported that OKCoin’s event at the Westin Hotel featured a keynote speech by CEO Star Xu, and the official launch of the company’s new Virtual Futures trading platform.

There were also roundtable discussion topics concerning bitcoin’s outlook in China, a debate and launch of the new book, The Controversial Bitcoin.

Huobi marked one year since its launch on 1st September, 2013, at the Shangri-La Hotel with the first ‘China Bitcoin Industry Summit‘ featuring presentations, panel discussions, and a huge birthday cake.

The company used the event as a launching platform for several new services including BitYes, its international USD-based trading platform, and DigCoin, Huobi’s mining-based investment product.

CEO Leon Li said:

“Huobi is more than a bitcoin exchange, it is a comprehensive bitcoin services company.”

Huobi's giant birthday cakeHuobi’s giant birthday cake

It also handed out a series of awards for mining companies, impressive applications, and innovative bitcoin media.

Shifting sands

The mood surrounding bitcoin exchanges in China has shifted visibly since May this year, when the five largest players withdrew booths and speakers from China’s first international bitcoin conference at the last minute.

Huobi’s Robert Kuhne said there have been no public statements from the Chinese government in the past few months, and that exchanges now have a much better idea of the boundaries within which they operate.

Attendees at Huobi's first birthday eventAttendees at Huobi’s first birthday event

Now large exchanges are expected to attend the next big China event, Shanghai’s Bitcoin Expo on 19th-21st September. OKCoin is listed as a major sponsor and CEO Li as a speaker.

All this occurs as China’s larger exchanges have adapted their business models to suit the local environment  rather than focus on market speculation as they did last year, they have recently diversified their offerings with margin trading, derivatives, bitcoin wallets and even P2P lending.

The exchanges have also moved closer to China’s other bitcoin mega-industry, bitcoin mining, taking part-shares in mining factories and participation in mining pools, cloud mining and other investment products.

OKCoin's Changpeng Zhao speaks at Saturday's eventOKCoin’s Changpeng Zhao speaks at Saturday’s event

Other bitcoin startups face rocky road

This could be both good and not-so-good news for bitcoin on China. It could signify that acceptance of bitcoin is growing, or that authorities no longer consider it influential in mainstream life.

A source from the Chinese bitcoin scene, who preferred not to be named, said of the exchanges’ expanding businesses:

“[It’s an] inevitable trend of the overall industry, but small startups are facing a bigger challenge.”

The attention is drawing in outsiders and new investors who wanted to get involved in bitcoin, but some mining and application startups are having a tough time finding both customers and investment. For example, startup wallet service Bihang posted a notice last week saying it is to close down.

Rui Ma, China-based partner at 500 Startups, agreed that Chinese venture capital interest in smaller bitcoin startups is “definitely low”, and that mainstream VC investors are “not taking it seriously” for reasons of lack of legal clarity, low visibility and daily use in China and better opportunities for tech entrepreneurs outside the bitcoin sphere.

Kuhne added that while things could easily change in future, there is still optimism.

“There is so much excitement because of fast-developing technology and all the money to be made,” he said.

 

OKCoin Event Panda

Images via Philip McMaster, OKCoin, Huobi, Weibo

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