When Brigitte Macron came to NFT Paris
by James · March 30, 2023
I was one of the 18,000 people who entered the Grand Palais Éphémère, a huge domed exhibition hall facing the Eiffel Tower, for NFT Paris three weeks ago. The event has hooked me more than most crypto conferences do – and I attend a lot of crypto conferences.
Firstly, I was impressed by the energy, positivity and seriousness of the participants, the panel chats and the art exhibitions. I was struck by how many global consumer and luxury brands were available – 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 pointers on actual NFT activations they have launched, instead of talking in vague platitudes, pretending to be interested in Web3.
It was impossible to walk away from the conference thinking that crypto is dead.
But that was in France. Back in the US, I returned home to more headlines about regulatory cuts, lawsuits and fines against crypto companies.
On the first day of NFT Paris, Brigitte Macron, “première dame” of France, made a surprise visit and spent time walking the floor. There was a palpable rush of excitement as people began to hear that she was there. And she wasn’t the only French official to stop by: Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak and Digital Transition Minister Jean-Noël Barrot also turned up.
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 few fun questions and receive a laminated “planet holder” ID card that could be minted as an NFT later from home. She went through the steps with artist Tom Sachs, and later followed through and imprinted her NFT. (Or someone on her team did.)
Can you imagine Dr. Jill Biden attending a crypto conference in the US 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), although SEC Chairman Gary Gensler continues to avoid articulating what he believes makes a token a security and why. Instead, he has added investment and lending products to the list of securities.
The agency’s $30 million fine against Kraken for its betting service is just the latest head-scratching salvo — one that prompted an SEC commissioner to publicly question 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 DC appellate judge questioned the SEC’s logic, saying it didn’t has provided enough evidence for the rejection of a Grayscale application and has not explained what it sees as the difference between Bitcoin futures and the spot price of Bitcoin.
The meltdown of three US banks over 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 another blow. to the crypto industry. Sure, coins rallied after the Feds promised to freeze deposits, but the two crypto-friendly banks were just taken off the board, which is by no means good news.
Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank said Signature Bank was shut down to send an “anti-crypto message,” and Reuters reported that potential buyers of Signature are being told to give up the bank’s crypto business, which all sounds plausible given recent history. Regulators have rejected the claims.
Of course, regulatory bodies don’t do the law, just enforce it. US lawmakers are setting the nationwide narrative with their continued dire rhetoric about the risks of crypto investing while ignoring the benefits of Web3 technology. (Sam Bankman-Fried made all of this much worse, obviously.)
The US is completely blowing it on crypto. Now the nightmare scenario is playing out: projects are leaving America to focus on Europe and other countries where they are (comparatively) more warmly welcomed.
Coinbase, the largest publicly traded US exchange, sees the writing on the wall: it is accelerating its plans for international expansion.
The current regulatory regime has allowed crypto executives, entrepreneurs, engineers and investors to “draw threads from speeches given by one or more commissioners, and look at media interviews given by one or more commissioners or other SEC officials that suggest that all assets are securities ,” said Coinbase head of legal Paul Grewal on our latest gm podcast.
Grabbing 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?”