When Brigitte Macron Came to NFT Paris

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I was one of the 18,000 peo­ple to enter the Grand Palais Éphémère, a huge domed exhi­bi­tion hall fac­ing the Eif­fel Tow­er, for NFT Paris three weeks ago. The event has stuck with me more than most cryp­to con­fer­ences do—and I attend a lot of cryp­to conferences.

First off, I was blown away by the ener­gy, pos­i­tiv­i­ty, and seri­ous­ness of the atten­dees, pan­el chats, and art dis­plays. I was struck by how many glob­al con­sumer and lux­u­ry brands were on hand—Adi­das, Sales­force, Volk­swa­gen, Pan­erai, Warn­er Bros, LVMH, L’Oréal, and Chanel, to name just a few—and by the fact that these brands were now point­ing to actu­al NFT acti­va­tions they’ve launched, rather than speak­ing in vague plat­i­tudes, pre­tend­ing to be inter­est­ed in Web3.

It was impos­si­ble to walk away from the con­fer­ence believ­ing cryp­to is dead.

But that was in France. Back in the Unit­ed States, I returned home to more head­lines about reg­u­la­to­ry crack­downs, law­suits, and fines against cryp­to companies.

On the first day of NFT Paris, Brigitte Macron, the “pre­mière dame” of France, showed up for a sur­prise vis­it and spent time walk­ing the floor. There was a pal­pa­ble cur­rent of excite­ment when peo­ple start­ed hear­ing she was there. And she was­n’t the only French offi­cial to drop by: Min­is­ter of Cul­ture Rima Abdul Malak and Min­is­ter of Dig­i­tal Tran­si­tion Jean-Noël Bar­rot also made appearances.

Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron said last April that Web3 is an “oppor­tu­ni­ty not to be missed” for France.

Brigitte Macron even took a seat at the Rock­et Fac­to­ry, where atten­dees could answer a cou­ple fun ques­tions and receive a lam­i­nat­ed “plan­et hold­er” ID card that could be mint­ed as an NFT lat­er on from home. She went through the steps with the artist Tom Sachs, and lat­er fol­lowed through and mint­ed her NFT. (Or some­one from her team did.)

Can you imag­ine Dr. Jill Biden attend­ing a cryp­to con­fer­ence in the U.S. and say­ing pos­i­tive things? It would­n’t happen—not in the cur­rent environment.

Every week, the SEC fines anoth­er cryp­to project that launched a token (many of them years ago in the ICO era), even as SEC Chair Gary Gensler con­tin­ues to avoid artic­u­lat­ing what he believes makes a token a secu­ri­ty and why. Instead, he has added stak­ing and lend­ing prod­ucts to the list of securities.

The agen­cy’s $30 mil­lion fine against Krak­en for its stak­ing ser­vice is only the lat­est head-scratch­ing salvo—one that had an SEC com­mis­sion­er pub­licly ques­tion­ing Gensler again.

Mean­while, the SEC’s refusal to approve a U.S. ETF tied to the price of Bit­coin (even after approv­ing ETFs tied to Bit­coin futures back in Octo­ber 2021) is so weak that a D.C. appeals judge ques­tioned the SEC’s log­ic, say­ing it has­n’t giv­en enough evi­dence for its rejec­tion of a Grayscale appli­ca­tion and has­n’t explained what it sees as the dif­fer­ence between Bit­coin futures and the spot price of Bitcoin.

The melt­down of three U.S. banks in the past two weeks—two of which (Sil­ver­gate and Sig­na­ture) were explic­it­ly cryp­to banks, the oth­er (Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank) a “tech bank” whose clients includ­ed some notable cryp­to com­pa­nies—is yet anoth­er body blow to the cryp­to indus­try. Sure, coins went up after the Feds promised to back­stop deposits, but the two cryp­to-friend­ly banks just got tak­en off the board, which is in no way good news.

For­mer Mass­a­chu­setts con­gress­man Bar­ney Frank said Sig­na­ture Bank was shut down to send an “anti-cryp­to mes­sage,” and Reuters report­ed that prospec­tive buy­ers of Sig­na­ture are being told they must give up the bank’s cryp­to busi­ness, all of which sounds plau­si­ble giv­en recent his­to­ry. Reg­u­la­tors have denied the claims.

Of course, reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies don’t make the law, just enforce it. U.S. law­mak­ers are set­ting the nation­wide nar­ra­tive with their con­tin­ued severe rhetoric about the risks of cryp­to invest­ing, mean­while ignor­ing the ben­e­fits of Web3 tech­nol­o­gy. (Sam Bankman-Fried made all of this much worse, obvi­ous­ly.)

The U.S. is utter­ly blow­ing it on cryp­to, and now the night­mare sce­nario is play­ing out: projects are leav­ing Amer­i­ca to focus on Europe and oth­er coun­tries where they are warm­ly welcomed.

Coin­base, the largest pub­licly trad­ed U.S. exchange, sees the writ­ing on the wall: it is speed­ing up its plans for inter­na­tion­al expan­sion.

The cur­rent reg­u­la­to­ry regime has left cryp­to exec­u­tives, entre­pre­neurs, engi­neers, and investors “pulling threads out of speech­es that are made by one or more com­mis­sion­ers, look­ing to media inter­views that one or more com­mis­sion­ers or oth­er SEC offi­cials have giv­en that sug­gest that all assets are secu­ri­ties,” Coin­base chief legal offi­cer Paul Gre­w­al said on our lat­est gm pod­cast.

Grasp­ing at straws, read­ing tea leaves, try­ing to build busi­ness­es while fear­ing a Wells Notice at any moment. As Gre­w­al asks, “Is this the best we can do?”

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