The Avalanche blockchain's conference in Barcelona, Spain, this week drew about 3,500 participants paying up to $600 each, organizers said, offering a fresh sign of the increasing popularity of in-person cryptocurrency events as the coronavirus retreats.
The attendance figure compares with about 500 participants at an Avalanche event held last year in conjunction with a broader industry gathering in Portugal. Officials billed the Barcelona event as the inaugural full conference dedicated to the Avalanche blockchain.
The popularity of the Avalanche Summit might reveal enduring interest in one of last year's hottest blockchain projects despite a 24% drop this year in the price for its native token AVAX. The number of attendees at the Avalanche conference exceeds the 2,000 who attended a major gathering last year in Lisbon for Solana, a rival blockchain.
Sean Farrell, head of digital-asset strategy for the independent investment research firm FundStrat who traveled to the four-day event from New York, said he was "impressed with the turnout and the overall energy."
"Despite most asset prices being well below all-time highs, there was a clear optimism and appetite to continue investing and building on Avalanche,” Farrell said. “I sensed a clear focus from developers on building out Avalanche’s subnet ecosystem in the coming months.”
The robust attendance at the Avalanche Summit might herald the return of crypto conferences as a key element of the industry workflow, providing in-person connections for the first time in years as coronavirus caseloads wane and remote working becomes increasingly the norm.
Avalanche's AVAX token was one of the hottest cryptocurrencies of 2021, jumping 33-fold in price.
The 2022 year-to-date decline would be even steeper were it not for a big rally last week – with AVAX jumping 25% – possibly fueled, at least in part, by anticipation of the event in Barcelona.
The mostly male crowd drew from a wide variety of roles, including blockchain coders, venture capitalists, crypto traders, hedge fund executives, lawyers, marketers, designers, musicians, gamers and even some government officials.
Conference organizers said there were more than 30 side events apart from the official conference, with after-parties in some cases stretching to 4 a.m. It started Tuesday and runs through Friday, with a hackathon scheduled for the coming weekend.
Devon Ferreira, head of marketing for Ava Labs, the company behind the Avalanche blockchain, said organizers took pains to make the in-person event easy for attendees to enjoy. One specific thing was starting the daily agenda at noon – possibly a nod to the idea that a lot of the value at international business gatherings like this comes after-hours, especially in a city known for its late dinners.
“We realize that nobody ever comes back from a conference raving about the keynote that happened on Day Three,” Ferreira told CoinDesk.
Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, vice president of marketing at Ava Labs, helped plan the event with Ferreira and said that they didn’t want to conform to the standard approach in crypto for events, which he described as hiring a convention center with an 8 a.m. start to 5 p.m. finish.
“We wanted to take risks and make sure the event didn’t feel corporate,” Kurahashi-Sofue said.
The official proceedings – more than 250 speakers across 60 panels – took place in Poble Espanyol, an open-air architectural museum in Barcelona, and the summit was spread across the 1929-built village with outdoor and indoor stages.
The Avalanche team erected a red-and-white-ceilinged structure referred to as the "Eco-Dome" where exhibitors set up booths not far from spreads of paella, tapas, Iberico ham and freshly caught prawns. There was plenty of the Spanish sparkling wine cava and vodka for attendees.
Tucked away from the main stage was an area known as the "Zen Garden,'' where attendees could get massages, listen to live music in a yurt, meditate or even get a tattoo. The idea was to provide a venue for relaxation and mindfulness – a welcome contrast to the array of NFT-related art and seemingly random displays like giant TV screens displaying the head of sheep.
Ferreira, the Ava Labs marketing honcho, attributes the success of the event to the overall growth of interest in crypto and his belief that Avalanche is fast becoming the heir apparent to Ethereum, the world's second-biggest blockchain.
The highest price of a ticket was $600 for the four days, an apparent bargain compared with Solana’s Breakpoint conference in November in Lisbon, where tickets went for as much as $1,000 or up to $4,000 for VIP passes.
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