The extent to which blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies succeed will undoubtedly depend upon our ability to organize in person with our peers and serve as an example of the utility of these technologies to others in our communities. Bringing cryptocurrency fans away from their computers to meet each other in the flesh, Bitcoin and general blockchain technology meetups across the globe have in many ways been the driving force behind the ongoing increase in popularity of Bitcoin and related technologies.
In late 2013 amidst the excitement of the legendary Bitcoin bubble wherein its all-time high of over $1100 was reached, a Bitcoin meetup group in Vancouver, British Columbia consisting mostly of friends who’d met at bars and coffee shops seized an opportunity to rent a former after-hours hangout spot below Bangtown Hair Salon in downtown Vancouver.
Cameron Gray and Freddie Heartline financed the acquisition and began to receive donations in the form of furniture and artwork from people who were excited about the space. Throughout 2014, Gray and Heartline gradually compiled the donations and other adornments into the suave, artistic space that is now home to the meetup group known as Decentral Vancouver.
Likely the most notable donation the group received was a 1960s Pepsi vending machine that has been outfitted with a Raspberry Pi and relay system that allows it to accept Bitcoin payments for soda. A portion of the space rests below the city sidewalk which is composed of transparent sheets of glass. An LED display beneath the glass in the sidewalk, dubbed LEDecentral, identifies the location as being home to Decentral Vancouver and beckons people inside to get involved.
The group, originally Decentral Bangtown, encountered a bit of a speed bump along its transition to Decentral Vancouver when a man in charge of a group called Decentral in Toronto notified them of his intentions to copyright the name ‘Decentral’. After a bit of a feud between the two parties, it was decided that Decentral Vancouver was indeed an acceptable name.
Decentral Vancouver had originally requested a flat rate membership fee for those wishing to use its space. However, in an effort to organize itself more like a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and comply with city zoning regulations, ten core members have committed to collectively paying the rent for the space each month.
This allows the space to be made available for artists and non-techies who are interested in learning more but not yet ready to pay for a membership. As more people become paying members and earn themselves a key, membership fees per member decrease and the group itself has more funds for improving the space and hosting events.
The space has been offered to cryptocurrency developers and entrepreneurs from projects such as Mycelium who wish to use the space for their work.
As more people came to visit the space and participate in the meetup groups, it was decided that the group would record their meetups, dubbed ‘Salon Talks’ as an ode to the nature and focus of their discussions as well as to the Salon located above the space, and post them online for others who couldn’t make it to the meetups.
The Salon Talks have hosted and broadcast a plethora of big names and projects from within the blockchain technology and cryptocurrency space such as Andreas Antonopoulous, Roger Ver, Shawn Wilkinson, Ripple, Ethereum, BitWage, Swarm, and numerous others. The shows have garnered a reputation as a valuable resource for those interested in keeping up to date with and becoming a part of the decentralized revolution.
In late 2014, Decentral Vancouver member Alex Sterk decided to quit his job and move to the west coast of Canada looking to live in a big city and get more involved with Bitcoin. He chose to settle in Vancouver where he met some guys from Decentral Vancouver at a Bitcoin 101 event. This led Sterk down a path by which he would become more well-connected with others involved in the cryptocurrency space both in person and online.
He found himself in various Telegram groups and Slack teams diving deep into the altcoin scene. The guys at Decentral Vancouver, upon recognizing how passionate and informed about altcoins and trading Sterk had become, proposed that he organize a presentation about trading and the altcoin scene for Decentral Vancouver. Brian Beamish, also known as ‘The Rational Investor‘, attended the presentation and by the end of the night, everyone had asked Sterk to organize a live webcast on trading and altcoins to be broadcast from Decenral Vancouver later that week. Sterk invited Beamish and several notable personas from the online trading and altcoin space, such as Gambleh and CryptoEthan, to participate in the webcast.
This pilot webcast resonated deeply with the altcoin community after it brought voices and some faces to personas previously known no further than as an avatar on Twitter or Slack. The second episode featured a different group of altcoin scene personas, such as notsofast and Ant, alongside Beamish once again and solidified the show’s reputation as a source of information on altcoins and trading and entertainment for those interested in cryptocurrency.
After a handful of successful episodes, Sterk popped into the ARCHcoin Slack team and announced his show would continue as a series and solicited suggestions for a name for it. It was I, coincidentally, who suggested the name ‘BlockTalk’. Sterk and the others liked it and from that point forward, Sterk’s broadcasts would be known as BlockTalk and uploaded to the Decentral Vancouver and BlockTalk YouTube pages.
Throughout 2015, Decentral Vancouver was putting out two to three episodes every week. BlockTalk focused primarily on altcoins and trading and the Salon Talks, which were produced with less frequency as the year progressed, focused on everything else in the Bitcoin space. The broadcasts eventually gained sponsorship from several notable companies operating in the cryptocurrency space.
The scope of the webcasts has also broadened with time to include how-to videos about installing Ethereum and informative videos describing what is known in blockchain technology as a hash. Some of the most recent webcasts have featured interviews with Adam Draper from BoostVC, Augur and OpenBazaar.
BlockTalk host Alex Sterk is in the midst of planning a relocation to Ontario. Decentral Vancouver will continue with its Salon Talks and Sterk will continue to broadcast BlockTalk from his new home. He plans to film and broadcast a handful of episodes during his cross-country relocation. Sterk is always looking for ways to evolve his show and will be experimenting with following a script to keep the show more structured and streamlined.
Decentral Vancouver and BlockTalk are outstanding examples of the kinds of success that can come about when we find ‘the others’ and put our heads together. Although Decentral Vancouver no longer advertises their location, all who are interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are invited to contact Decentral Vancouver, BlockTalk or one of its members via social media and stop by their location if in Vancouver and looking to dive down its rabbit hole.