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Sunday, November 21, 2023

Here’s where to meet New York’s young(ish) crypto millionaires

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Young cryptocurrency millionaires — and those who want to learn more about their hot assets — converge weekly in the Big Apple to drink, exchange business cards, and enjoy their collective good fortune at being early to the second internet gold rush.

The most recent gathering, held Monday in the upper room of Sean’s, a Midtown pub, featured dozens of 20- and 30-something techies dressed like they were going for a day hike in Portland — mingling with each other and a smattering of women as they sipped pints of Guinness and nibbled burgers and fries.

The event is called “CryptoMondays,” the Big Apple’s largest tech-style “meetup” devoted to digital currency — but on Nov. 15 the chatter wasn’t about Dogecoin or DeFi, but Mayor-elect Eric Adams.

New York is far from the most crypto-friendly state in the union, thanks to the Department of Financial Service’s restrictive “BitLicense,” which anyone engaged in virtual-currency business must obtain, attendees griped. The license limits new coin offerings as well as some types of crypto-backed lending that fall under the “decentralized finance” or “DeFi” umbrella.

Lou Kerner, 60
organizer, Crypto Mondays get together (cryptocurrency group social meeting) at Sean's Irish bar 42 W48th street
Lou Kerner, 60, is an organizer of the “CryptoMondays” meetups.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
Person holding cellphone with Bitcoin stats on the screen.
“CryptoMondays” is a cryptocurrency group social meeting in Manhattan.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

But they hope the new mayor — who has promised to make the city central to the booming new industry — can boost the local scene, while using his big-city bully pulpit to sway Albany to loosen crypto regs.

“I think Eric Adams is realizing that New York is very slow in terms of crypto adoption,” Nelson Merchan, 27, who runs a crypto-industry marketing firm, told The Post. “I think it’s a very smart move … I think it’s a move to compete with Miami.”

Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, has floated a city cryptocurrency that would pay a yield to Miami residents, eliminating residents’ need to pay taxes.

Not one to be outdone, Adams has argued cryptocurrency should be taught in schools, considered copying Miami’s municipal cryptocurrency, and said he’ll take his first three paychecks “in Bitcoin.”

Crypto Mondays get together (cryptocurrency group social meeting) at Sean's Irish bar 42 W48th street
At the Nov. 15 meetup, the chatter was about Mayor-elect Eric Adams.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
Sean Koh attends "CryptoMondays" at Sean's Irish Bar in Manhattan.
Sean Koh attends “CryptoMondays” at Sean’s Irish Bar in Manhattan.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

An Adams rep clarified that, since the city can only process payroll in American dollars, the mayor planned to take his pay, after taxes, and buy Bitcoin. His most recent financial disclosure doesn’t list any crypto holdings.

Sean Koh, a recording artist and cofounder of Koherent, a subsidiary of his family office, said he plans to winter in “crypto hub” Miami — but he’s open to a more crypto-friendly New York.

“Everything is always about execution,” he said. “It really comes down to the details as far as how blockchain will help the city.” He’s referring to the building block of cryptocurrency: the decentralized “chain” of verified transactions that allows a digital, central bank-free currency.

Architect Alexandros Washburn, 59, chief urban designer under Michael Bloomberg’s mayoralty, says he holds Bitcoin and Ethereum — the two largest cryptocurrencies.

His new firm markets and sell digital “buildings” as “NFTs,” or non-fungible tokens. You can start building the metaverse based on [the blockchain]. And we’re here to help do that,” he said.

Alex Atallah, 29, co-founder and chief technology officer of the $1.5 billion NFT marketplace OpenSea, said he was “hoping for improvement” on New York state’s tough cryptocurrency regulations, which “make things really hard for companies building in New York.”

Alexandros Washburn and Nicholas Cassab
 - Crypto Mondays get together
Alexandros Washburn and Nicholas Cassab at a “CryptoMondays” get-together.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
Alex Atallah, founder of OpenSea speaks at Crypto Mondays in Manhattan while man next to him drinks beer.
Alex Atallah, founder of OpenSea speaks at “CryptoMondays” in Manhattan.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
Attendees talk at bar during CryptoMondays.
CryptoMondays attendees hope the new mayor will rush in changes that make New York City more friendly to cryptocurrency.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

A rep for the state DFS told The Post: “BitLicense requirements serve purposes including consumer protection, safety and soundness of the entity, market integrity, and the prevention of money laundering and other crimes. […] The State welcomes and encourages virtual currency companies to start up and enter the New York market”

Despite being twice the age of many attendees, the ringleader of the NYC branch is Lou Kerner, 60 — a partner at crypto fund Blockchain Coinvestors. His firm just launched a crypto-focused SPAC, that is, a publicly-traded shell company with a pot of cash will look to merge with a crypto business.

Kerner bounced around the room introducing strangers, more than keeping up with the group — most of which, unlike him, came of age in the glow of a computer monitor.

The former Wall Street analyst and dot-com boom executive bristled at what he says is their go-to slur — “boomer” — before launching into the story of his crypto conversion experience.

“I saw the crypto light on June 29, 2019. And I’ve been crypto 24/7 ever since,” he said.

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