How London Became the Center of Europe's Crypto SceneBy Billy Bambrough
Since Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in price pushed cryptocurrency and its underlying blockchain technology into the mainstream last year, people have been clamoring to board the Bitcoin train. According to LongHash data, London is the center of Europe’s crypto action. Analyzing data from Meetup.com, we found that the UK capital played host to significantly more cryptocurrency and blockchain related meetups than either Berlin or Paris last year -- despite the fact that both are major hubs for technology and financial technology startups.
While there has been a sharp fall in the number of gatherings in over 2018, London is clearly a key European hub for those interested in cryptocurrency to meet and exchange views.
Unsurprisingly, the number of meetups in London peaked at the same time Bitcoin and cryptocurrency prices spiked in early 2018, and both have dropped throughout the year.
While the correlation with the Bitcoin price explains the rise and fall of blockchain meetups, one reason why London has had more blockchain meetups than anywhere else in Europe over the last few years may be that it boasts more startups. In fact, London employs considerably more startup workers than any other city in Europe.
Charles Hayter, chief executive of CryptoCompare, describes the attractions of each location: “London [is] known to be a financial hub, Berlin [has] a strong developer community, and Paris [is] making friendly gestures to firms willing to relocate there.”
Just as the rise of London crypto meetups may be about more than just Bitcoin’s price rise, the subsequent drop may also be related to more than just the crypto market’s bear trend. The quality of the events on offer may also be playing a role in the diminishing enthusiasm for meetups. “This is the after effect of the bubble last year -- it’s bread and circuses,” said Hayter. “A lot of people trying to accrue community by offering free beer and food. There are a lot of empty seats at some events. The market has been oversaturated, with a lot not offering value for money, or not pulling in the key speakers of the space.”
The decline in London meetups has also been driven by factors like London-based Bitcoin exchange Coinfloor cutting staff numbers to deal with slumping trade volumes.
But not everyone in London is down on the scene just because the prices have dropped. Paul Gordon is the chief executive of institutional trading platform Quantave and the organizer of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency meetup Coinscrum. He has been putting together Bitcoin meetups in London since 2012, and says that the crypto boom has given rise to a productive trend: increasingly specific meetups.
“We have seen a big uptick in the number of crypto and blockchain meetups in the past year or so,” Gordon tells Longhash. “As we've seen an explosion in the number of blockchain-based projects, we've also seen the launch of more and more project-specific meetups -- these mostly attract an already knowledgeable crowd.”
“We've also seen a growth in new general-entry-level meetups that generally attract new, relatively uneducated attendees, although I'd question the quality of some of these, especially those that jumped on the initial coin offering bandwagon and quite often seem to act as speculative investment advisors,” Gordon added.
Moves by the British government to clamp down on the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency sector, with the goal of protecting investors and supporting Know Your Customer regulations, have also likely deflated some enthusiasm amongst speculative investors and meetup-goers. It’s not clear what effect that might have on the city’s crypto community going forward.
In September of this year, a committee of British politicians labeled Bitcoin and other digital currencies a "Wild West industry", with problems ranging from volatile prices to minimal consumer protection and risks from hacking and money-laundering. That kind of rhetoric could definitely be scaring away potential meetup-goers, too.
Still, the overall 2018 trend suggests that more than any other factor, Europe’s meetup scenes have all been hit hard by the bear market. If Bitcoin bounces back, London could well resume its lead.