(Bloomberg) — No name tags and by invitation only, an exclusive cryptocurrency crowd gathered behind closed doors at the Waldorf Astoria’s Jean-Georges restaurant in Beverly Hills.
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It was Medici LA 22, an event set up to connect crypto entrepreneurs and institutional investors amid the ballooning popularity of digital assets. The who’s who of crypto attended, with Mike Novogratz, chief executive officer of Galaxy Digital, Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana and Rostin Behnam, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, among the 130 or so at the two-day meeting. The goal was to generate “actionable investment ideas” in the digital asset world, according to a copy of the conference’s program seen by Bloomberg News.
And by some accounts, tickets for the event were hard to come by. A few hundred meters away, a separate confab was in full swing but some participants at the Milken Global Institute Conference — a mainstay event for the U.S. investing world — were wondering how they could get access to the parallel cryptocurrency gig.
That’s even as Milken hosted its own digital asset offering — perhaps its most expanded yet — with several crypto-related panels, including two on the metaverse and one on digital nationalism. Crypto executives, investors and developers such as Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase Global Inc. attended at the Beverly Hilton.
At the Medici event, Wall Street financiers in buttoned-up shirts and suits mingled with crypto developers in sneakers and T-shirts. The CFTC’s Behnam shared views from Washington, saying partnerships are being formed in the Senate and the House of Representatives over the industry’s future. Attendees came from companies such as BlackRock Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Jane Street.
Other participants at the event, which began on Monday at a separate hotel, included Kanav Kariya, president of Jump Crypto, Mary-Catherine Lader, chief operating officer of Uniswap Labs, Adam Jackson, CEO of Braintrust and Mihailo Bjelic, co-founder of Polygon. Attendees, who didn’t have to wear name tags, discussed scaling and infrastructure, markets and DeFi, web3 and regulation and policy. Medici events are free for invited guests, according to the program.
The Medici Network was set up about five years ago by Adam Winnick, founding partner of Finality Capital Partners and an early entrant into the crypto world. Winnick started his career on Wall Street at CIBC working on high-yield financing, according to his profile on LinkedIn. Michael Milken, the Milken Institute’s founder and billionaire “Junk Bond King” helped turn high-yield debt from a backwater of risky corporate debt into a trillion-dollar market. High-yield bonds had inspired Winnick, he said.
“At the time, high-yield bonds were a novel asset class that institutions could not buy. They were, however, an invaluable financial instrument for founders building new networks cable, mobile, fiber optics,” he said in the conference’s program. “Today, tokens are the novel instrument that are bootstrapping a whole new group of networks and we are proud to support that effort.”
The group’s optimism contrasts with the performance of crypto markets this year. Digital assets, just like other riskier areas of the market, have all been weighed down as the Federal Reserve and other global central banks raise interest rates to fight red-hot inflation. In this environment, Bitcoin hasn’t been able to break out in any meaningful way beyond its highs at the start of the year.
(Updates with details from meeting, market context from fifth paragraph.)
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