The Martha’s Vineyard Cryptocurrency Symposium wrapped up its informational sessions last Thursday after three days of speakers giving talks.
The symposium, held at the Martha’s Vineyard Arts Project, was put together by Dr. Curt Cetrulo, a Chilmark resident, retired medical doctor, and former Tufts University professor, who found success buying cryptocurrencies and aims to share his knowledge and passion with as many people as he can.
“I started investing about a year and a half ago just to become passionate about it, and I wanted to teach people about it in the correct way so they don’t lose a lot of money and they just learn about it,” Dr. Cetrulo said.
Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that use encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify transfers of funds;they operate independently of any centralized bank, government, or middleman. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple are some of the many cryptocurrencies people can trade.
These cryptocurrencies use a complicated technology called blockchain, which stores information on a network of personal computers, making them decentralized and distributed, meaning no central company or person owns the system. Blockchain technology is similar to a large online public ledger, and can be used to track anything of value by bundling data into chronologically linked “blocks” that are verified by other people on the same system.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are added to the blockchain through a process called “mining.” Anyone can mine Bitcoin with the right software, which then verifies and makes it available to buy and sell. Mining can be profitable, because miners can charge transaction fees when selling their Bitcoin. Mining can be time-consuming, and uses a lot of electricity because computers have to solve complicated mathematical problems to generate the cryptocurrency.
“It’s the only thing that actually pays a dividend,” Claire Lang, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said. Lang is in her 80s and owns a cryptocurrency mine, stock in marijuana companies, and, multiple cryptocurrencies.
Lang’s daughter, Sally Musser, also bought several cryptocurrencies, and came to the conference with her. “The free market concept, no one’s in charge, it runs itself, nobody controls it, un-banked,” Musser said listing her favorite things about cryptocurrencies.
Musser also told The Times she sold the majority of her traditional stocks to buy cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, which she said she used to fund her Roth 401(k) retirement plan.
Dr. Cetrulo structured the symposium on three levels –– introductory, intermediate, and advanced –– hoping by the end, attendees could confidently purchase cryptocurrencies and learn how to trade them.
But learning how to buy cryptocurrencies was only the tip of the symposium’s iceberg. Dr. Cetrulo packed the event with guest speakers who spoke on Bitcoin, cryptocurrency trends, and the ways blockchain technology can store and make available all kinds of information.
Speakers included Dan Byrd, a former executive in finance, who gave a talk on “whales,” a term used to describe people who own thousands of Bitcoins and may manipulate the market valuation; Dennis Grishin, a computer scientist, who gave a talk on adding the human genome to blockchain technology, and its implications for medicine and healthcare; and Darryll DiPietro, president of Concierge Club, an app that allows people to manage their cryptocurrencies and pay for goods and services, who spoke about how his company is integrating itself into Mexico.
“I’m not an expert on cryptocurrency or blockchain. I just know how to make money,” Naomi Shea, a cryptocurrency enthusiast who gave a hands-on tutorial on how to set up a Coinbase account, said. Coinbase is an online platform that lets people buy, sell, and manage cryptocurrencies, and in Shea’s opinion is the easiest platform to use. Shea walked attendees through a multiple-step verification process in which emails and bank accounts are linked to Coinbase and encrypted. Shea projected her own Coinbase account up on a large screen at the symposium.
Attendees of the talk ranged from those who had no idea what Bitcoin was to people who had made a small fortune from it. Debbie Bryant, a retired summer resident on Chappy, was one of the former. “I’m fascinated about it. The idea that it’s the wave of the future, the potential is unlimited,” she said. Bryant also said she enjoyed Grishin’s talk on blockchain and the human genome.
Dr. Cetrulo, Shea, and other speakers during the symposium reiterated to attendees to always diversify their investments, and only invest money they are willing to lose, similar to the stock market. Cryptocurrencies are known for being volatile, with prices drastically dropping or rising, sometimes over the course of one day.
“There’s two things you’ve got to know: Buy and hold,” Dr. Cetrulo said.