Inside Austin’s bitcoin underground

Inside Austin's bitcoin underground

AUSTIN — There is a sort of clubhouse for Austin’s bitcoin believers on the second floor of the Littlefield Building at the corner of Congress Avenue and Sixth Street. The hideaway is at the crossroads of two worlds — the majestic thoroughfare that leads to the Texas State Capitol and the iconic, albeit notorious, stretch of bars, restaurants, and live music that define the capital’s party vibes. It’s an apt metaphor for the space itself.

The Bitcoin Commons is, at once, many things.

By day, it functions as an open plan, fluorescent-lit co-working space for the more corporate-minded bitcoin operators, but at night, it moonlights as a safe space for underground meet-ups of the industry’s rogue actors. Periodically, it plays host to conferences that draw in a mix of attendees ranging from venture capitalists to armed preppers living entirely off the grid. And on some afternoons, once happy hour hits, the kitchen at the back is retrofit with a stowaway bar.

“We also fund developers, and we help them advance their projects,” said Parker Lewis, one of the stewards of the Commons, as well as the author of a new book on bitcoin called “Gradually, Then Suddenly.”

“We help advance bitcoin through education and actually developing the monetary network, the code base, and the applications,” said Lewis, who is widely considered to be one of Texas’ de facto bitcoin ambassadors.

Francisco Chavarria was born in Mexico City and spent time in Salt Lake City, but three years ago, he made the move to Austin to be a part of a community of like-minded thinkers. His company, Yopaki, which is a neobank for bitcoin focused on the Latin American market, just won first place in a hackathon put on at the Commons.

“If you talk to other builders in the competition, a lot happens here,” said Chavarria. “There definitely is a sense of, ‘I don’t need for others to lose for me to win.’ There really is a relationship and a collaboration for bitcoin to succeed.”

“Right now it feels like we’re all winning because of the price, but those of us who have been building in the bear market, we know,” Chavarria added.

Austin’s “Bitcoin Commons” hosts regular meetups and conferences for the city’s bitcoiners.


Bear or bull market, bitcoiners have flocked to Austin because of a combination of pro-crypto policies, abundant, renewable energy, and an ever-growing network of some of the brightest developers and miners on the planet. And even in the price doldrums, they typically bring the same level of enthusiasm to the conversation — though bitcoin’s recent stretch of record-breaking price moves has gone a long way toward boosting morale.

In March, bitcoin hit multiple, fresh all-time highs, as trader enthusiasm for the digital asset sector soared. A lot of that price run-up has to do with the record flows into the newly-launched spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds in the U.S., led by the world’s largest asset manager Blackrock and its $15.5 billion iShares Bitcoin Trust, which have helped…

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