Arriving roughly one hour into a full-day blockchain-themed event called “Initial Taco Offering,” I’m greeted by a sight familiar to many attendees of Austin’s South By Southwest Interactive Festival. There is a throng of badge-wearing, mostly male conference goers — and there are free tacos.

The event, a play on the initial coin offerings that have turned digital currencies into some of the buzziest and most fraught investment opportunities on the planet, is being held at a steakhouse on Lavaca Avenue in downtown Austin. The organizers, a group called the Founders Organization, lured attendees away from more traditional sessions in the city’s convention center and nearby hotels with the promise of complimentary food and spirited discussions about the future of cryptocurrencies.

Because it is SXSW and nothing is taken too seriously, the event is scattered with googly-eyed taco plushies and Bitcoin logo-branded chocolate coins. In the back, a man tries to sell onlookers on an intimidating, multi-monitor setup called the Blockchain Terminal.

It is a cryptocurrency tracker in the vein of Bloomberg’s signature financial product that is not itself capable of buying and selling cryptocurrency, for various technical reasons. Though the air is light-hearted and smells strongly of fried fish, a vast majority of the speakers and attendees take their seats as the five-hour onslaught of panels kicks off, everyone listening intently in hopes of understanding the future.

And hopefully getting rich in the process. Cryptocurrency, as a catch-all term, derives from the cryptography used to sign and record transactions on the blockchain — the technical foundation of digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ether. Read more from…

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