First Ever Canadian Bitcoin Conference Wraps Up in Toronto

The event attracted over 300 attendees and a diverse array of exhibitors, according to conference organizers, signaling continued interest in the cryptocurrency despite past criticism of Bitcoin by Canada’s Prime Minister and tighter regulation of Canadian exchanges.

AccessTimeIconJun 20, 2023 at 5:54 a.m. UTC
Updated Jun 20, 2023 at 6:09 p.m. UTC

Hundreds of bitcoiners flocked to the swanky Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto on June 17 and June 18 to attend the first ever Canadian Bitcoin Conference. It wasn't the first Bitcoin-exclusive event in the Great White North, but it was the first conference with that specific name. The event featured talks from podcast host Stephan Livera, a “build your own open-source Bitcoin miner” workshop by Quebecan mining service provider D-Central, and a sneak preview of the new mobile wallet by bitcoin exchange Bull Bitcoin.

The event was organized by Bitcoin enthusiast couple Daniel and Manuela Carlin, with the help of roughly a dozen volunteers. It attracted over 300 attendees who each parted with anywhere from 180 to 498 Canadian dollars (about $136 to $377) depending on the type of ticket purchased.

Despite a bear market that has dragged on since last year, the introduction of a more stringent regulatory regime responsible for the exodus of large marquee exchanges like Binance from the country, and prior public ridicule of the dominant cryptocurrency by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the inaugural launch of the Canadian Bitcoin Conference is proof that the country's Bitcoin ecosystem remains intact, and may even be thriving.

“Bitcoin adoption has been steadily growing over the last number of years and that will continue. I think it will accelerate,” Daniel Carlin told CoinDesk in an interview. “One day we’ll wake up and it’ll just be a big green candle to the moon.”

Highlights of the conference

Bull Bitcoin mobile wallet

Bull Bitcoin CEO Francis Pouliot discussed self-custody before unveiling a beta version of the new Bull Bitcoin mobile app. The app is a non-custodial bitcoin wallet that is fully integrated with the Bull Bitcoin exchange. The integration allows users to purchase bitcoin (BTC) from the Canadian exchange directly from within the app.

“Still a bunch of work to do before I'm happy with a release,” Pouliot later tweeted. “But testing is still appreciated!”

Bull Bitcoin mobile wallet (Frederick Munawa)
Bull Bitcoin mobile wallet (Frederick Munawa)

Last week, Jack Dorsey’s FinTech company Block (SQ) also launched beta testing for its new self-custody bitcoin wallet, Bitkey. The wallet will allow bitcoin purchases from the app via an integration with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase (COIN) and Block’s financial services platform Cash App.

The catastrophic implosions of decentralized finance platforms like Celsius and BlockFi, the shocking unraveling of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, and now the SEC’s lawsuits against Coinbase and fellow crypto exchange Binance, have all triggered a flight from centralized platforms – billions worth of crypto deposits – to self-custody wallets like the ones being tested by Block and Bull Bitcoin.

Panties for Bitcoin

One of the few Bitcoin startups at the conference not directly involved in technology was underwear manufacturer Panties for Bitcoin.

The company’s booth featured oversized banners with images of scantily clad supermodels donning orange panties and bras.

The Panties for Bitcoin founder who only goes by Pablo, is an Argentinian industrial engineer who immigrated to Canada. Pablo says he’s a 50-year veteran of the underwear manufacturing industry and now proudly runs his new Bitcoin startup with the help of his son Michael.

Panties for Bitcoin booth at the 2023 Canadian Bitcoin Conference (Frederick Munawa)
Panties for Bitcoin booth at the 2023 Canadian Bitcoin Conference (Frederick Munawa)

“Before Bitcoin I was a panty manufacturer,” Pablo told CoinDesk. “Now I'm a Bitcoin nerd who manufactures panties.”

Michael says their panties and bras are high quality undergarments manufactured in Italy, and that the company is planning to expand its product line soon.

“So we have one style of bra and three styles of panties,” Michael said. “The next step will be to get a boxer around the time of Pacific Bitcoin.”

Stephan Livera and D-Central

The conference concluded with Livera delivering a lively talk on self-custody, contributing to the Bitcoin ecosystem in non-technical ways, and the future of Bitcoin’s two primary use cases – digital payments and acting as a store of value. He also denounced the plethora of speculative tokens and affiliated platforms which he cheekily branded “sh*tcoin casinos.”

“If you sit by the bank of the river long enough, you can watch the bodies of your enemies float by,” Livera said, quoting ancient philosopher Sun Tzu’s famous book, Art of War. “So I think we’ll see that with some of these sh*tcoin casinos.”

After it was all said and done, D-Central led a small exclusive group of Bitcoin mining hobbyists in a 3-hour “build your own open-source Bitcoin miner” workshop. Participants purchased premium tickets for the exercise and received kits with BM1397 Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) chips that they eventually turned into working bitcoin miners.

2023 “build your own open-source Bitcoin miner” workshop by D-Central (Frederick Munawa)
2023 “build your own open-source Bitcoin miner” workshop by D-Central (Frederick Munawa)

Canadian Bitcoin Conference origin story

Carlin was born and raised in Ireland, but after the 2007-2009 Great Recession, the mechanical engineer was laid off and given a meager severance package. He used that money to immigrate to Canada with his wife Manuela, where the couple eventually stumbled across Bitcoin circa 2016.

“I took the money and said let's go to Canada,” Carlin said. “So we packed up, sold everything, came to Canada, and started a life here. That was back in 2009.”

While in Canada, Carlin took a liking to the ideas of finance journalist Max Keiser. One of those ideas was buying bitcoin.

“I was listening to a lot of Max Keiser,” Carlin explained. “Investing in gold and silver and eventually bitcoin.”

Despite being an engineer, Carlin didn’t contribute to the Bitcoin ecosystem in a technical way. Instead, he leveraged his people skills while Manuela brought her event management expertise, and the couple created the country’s first Canadian Bitcoin Conference.

“I wanted to give something back and use my skills to contribute to the community,” Carlin said. “Manuela, my wife, she's a professional event manager. So we combined forces and said, ‘Look, this is something we can do.’”

UPDATE (June 20, 2023, 15:15 UTC): Clarifies that it wasn't the first Bitcoin-exclusive event in Canada.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Frederick  Munawa

Frederick Munawa was a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covered blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.