Bitcoin boosters partied hard at SXSW as the currency sinks — here’s what it was like

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  • Cryptocurrency enthusiasts threw a party at SXSW.
  • The bar accepted bitcoin and other coins as payment for bottle service.
  • The mood was merry despite recent plunges in the price of bitcoin.

 

When groups of cryptocurrency enthusiasts raised shot glasses at a nightclub in Austin, Texas, late Tuesday night, the price of bitcoin was hovering around $9,000.

House music played as guests danced and mingled. Barely-dressed bartenders poured shots. For one night only, Austin’s Rio club accepted cryptocurrency as payment for bottle service.

No one can seem to agree if or when the bitcoin bubble will burst, but for the currency’s biggest boosters, it doesn’t matter. They’re holding their cryptocurrency rather than selling it.

BYOBitcoin, a startup based in Austin that builds and maintains facilities for bitcoin mining, threw the first-ever "Just Hodl It" party at the SXSW film festival and tech conference on Tuesday. (Hodl is a a slang term in bitcoin that means to stay invested in cryptocurrency and resist the urge to sell when the price slides.)

The idea was to bring together cryptocurrency enthusiasts at the festival to share in their passion, and ultimately, console one another on the recent plunge in bitcoin’s price.

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Fears of a global crackdown on cryptocurrencies led to a violent sell-off at the start of 2018. The price of bitcoin fell to $5,947 in February, or about 225% below its record high in December.

The currency is now trading over $9,000 per coin, and it remains extremely volatile.

Still, the mood was merry at Rio. Guests started pouring into the club after 9 p.m. and received plastic coins at the door that entitled them to free drinks at the bar.

A bartender told me that customers could buy bottles with bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin, but that she didn’t know how to do it and would have to hail a manager if I wanted to try doing so. 

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The event kicked off with a panel of entrepreneurs in the cryptocurrency space, speaking about the state of bitcoin in 2018. Some of their companies had also sponsored the party.

One panelists encouraged solidarity as "we all sort of survive this crypto winter."

Randall Crowder, whose LinkedIn account describes him as chief operations officer and "chief crypto zealot" at software maker Phunware, Inc., searched for the silver lining in the situation.

Cryptocurrencies have created "one of the largest transfers of wealth going on in the history of the world," Crowder said during the panel. He added, "It’s just getting started."

When Crowder told the packed room at Rio, "It’s 1994 all over again, and you have an opportunity to make a sh–load of money," the crowd (mostly men) erupted in cheers.

Kim Parnell, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur from Toronto attending the conference, said she had spent the previous two days attending cryptocurrency-focused panels and meetup events.

She told Business Insider that because of "huge run we had last year," cryptocurrencies like bitcoin attracted tons of new buyers in 2017. The cryptocurrency community has become so broad, she said, it can be defined as two groups: the longtime believers and novice investors.

People who boarded the bitcoin bandwagon before 2017 are less worried about the volatility, Parnell said. She said she focuses more on "exciting new projects" instead of bitcoin’s price.

SEE ALSO: Homeowners across America are trying to sell their million-dollar homes for bitcoin — and it could be a disastrous idea

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