Inaugural Bitcoin Fair in San Francisco Sees High Turnout

The first of possibly many Bitcoin Fairs has brought newbies and experts together to share a passion for cryptocurrencies.

AccessTimeIconFeb 9, 2014 at 7:49 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 10:20 a.m. UTC

Hundreds of curious people recently descended upon San Francisco’s Japantown to have a relaxing few hours learning about cryptocurrencies and their potential at the first ever Bitcoin Fair.

The inaugural event was held at the Japan Center eatery, Ramen Underground, last Thursday night. The restaurant has been accepting bitcoin for some time, making it an appropriate venue to host what organizers believe will be the first Bitcoin Fair of many.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, Ramen Underground was offering food and drink specials payable with bitcoin via the use of QR codes on its tables.

‘First of many’

Bitcoin Fair's co-organizer Nathan Lands said that this particular event is just the start of something bigger. He added:

“This is just a stepping stone. We’ve got to build momentum behind it, just one step at a time.”

Lands worked with event partner Marshall Hayner to organize the fair. They believe that ongoing Bitcoin Fair events could snowball and attract somewhere between 800 to 1,000 people if they were held quarterly, or perhaps even monthly, somewhere in San Francisco.

And they might be right – Ramen Underground had a full house.

 Ramen Underground, Japantown, SF – location of the first ever Bitcoin Fair.
Ramen Underground, Japantown, SF – location of the first ever Bitcoin Fair.

Specials and speeches

Not long after the Fair’s 6.30 pm start, the restaurant was standing room only. Lands later confirmed at least 250 people came to socialize and learn about bitcoin. “Luckily people came and went, so it wasn’t all at one time,” he noted.

The gathering was sponsored by law firm Perkins Coie and Quickcoin – a startup that helps merchants with bitcoin transactional data.

Some of the Ramen Underground bitcoin specials for the event included $5 draft beers or glasses of wine, $9 chicken karage, $4 chicken wings and fried potato wedges for $4. All specials were available for payment in bitcoin via QR code placards placed on each table.

After a quick welcoming talk by Marshall Hayner, Perkins Coie partner Jason A Yurasek made a brief speech to the crowd. The Palo Alto-based law firm currently represents a number of bitcoin startups.

He urged startups to use the firms’ startupPerColator product, which helps nascent companies quickly get up and running with the right legal paperwork.

Bitcoin gateway

The event – which lasted three hours – saw startup CEOs, venture capitalists and complete bitcoin newbies having a rare chance to chat about cryptocurrencies. Lands told CoinDesk that the plan is to make the fair an entry point for people who want to enter the world of bitcoin:

“There’s tons of people who have heard of bitcoin, but they don’t know much about it.”

The idea for the Bitcoin Fair is to offer something less in-depth than bitcoin conferences, which can quickly become very immersive and technical affairs.

“Those kinds of events are really valuable, but I’m interested in making something more mainstream and fun,” Lands explained.

The fair, as a result, was created with the idea that actually using bitcoin should be the most important element of the event. “There’s no one out there making it really simple for people to use [bitcoin],” he added.

 People coalescing for the Bitcoin Fair.
People coalescing for the Bitcoin Fair.

New partners wanted

Lands and Hayner believe that the fair's concept could prove popular. The fact that the very first event brought in more than 200 people gives traction to that idea.

Other metropolitan areas are already interested in holding their own introductory bitcoin events, Lands said. He added that he is looking for “partners around the world who can try this in their city”.

He pointed specifically to Los Angeles, Vancouver and Orlando, as locations where coin enthusiasts have already expressed interest in staging their own bitcoin fairs in the future.

Lands and Marshall haven’t yet decided where and when the next San Francisco Bitcoin Fair will be held. Their experience at the relatively tiny Ramen Underground, though, indicates that they are going to need to find a venue with a lot more space if they meet their target of 800 next time round.


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