ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The buzz of fans drowns out any attempted conversation. Row after row, the low, steady whir from each blade compounds into a roar that echoes off the sterile walls of the windowless room. The fans spin fast, cooling computer units linked by miles of cables and blinking lights.
Each second that passes, the computers make Bob Davidoff and his investors richer.
“Like all good things, it started in my garage,” Davidoff marveled. “We built it to basically start mining operations all over the country and the world.”
Davidoff, the founder of cryptocurrency investment company Bentaus, is a “miner” who helps to build the Bitcoin network. His computer-laden facilities are the “mines” that help create more of the commodity and secure the network.
In simple terms, his computers act as record keepers, authenticating trades between Bitcoin sellers and buyers to deter scams. If his computers are successful, the network creates a little bit of new currency and pays him. Like other commodities such as gold, livestock or oil, investors and users determine how much that Bitcoin is worth.
To the everyday person, cryptocurrency sounds more complicated than it really is. Insiders like Davidoff can easily begin speaking in programming language that few others understand. That’s contributed to the current lack of understanding about Bitcoin, and the ongoing domination of tech insiders who jumped in early, or investors who swooped in slightly later armed with cash.
Davidoff, who compares this era to the early years of the internet, believes crypto is at a tipping point — one that’s being sped along by the war in Ukraine and turmoil around the world.
War disrupts everything
Already, the marks of Bitcoin are appearing in places never seen before.
With people out of work and busy defending their country, many Ukrainian media outlets, as well as the country’s own government, have resorted to cryptocurrencies to raise resistance funds.
The technology is also becoming more common in the Western Hemisphere. Mining facilities like Davidoff’s are popping up across the southern United States, including in Florida, thanks to foreign investors looking for U.S. visas.
Many of those investors come from South American countries like Peru and Chile, where the governments are tilting increasingly left into extreme forms of socialism. Political violence is also becoming more common.
“The first people who get spooked are the entrepreneur class,” immigration attorney Henry Lim explained, adding that he had opened offices in many of those countries. “They’re looking to protect their assets, so they’re looking to leave.”
The United States offers them an exit: a special type of visa available to citizens of some countries that is handed out in exchange for investments in U.S. startups.
Traditionally, recipients have opened factories or shops and hired workers to qualify. These days, Lim said, they’re investing in crypto mining facilities.
“Infrastructure, computers, servers, people maintaining these computers,” Lim listed. “You need roughly around $100,000 and you can pretty much have a visa for life.”
Davidoff sees this as an opportunity for cities, where abandoned factories can be turned into productive mining facilities since they’re wired for lots of equipment. He also said smaller organizations can jump in by hosting parts of the network. The heat generated, he said, could easily warm a homeowner’s association community pool, and the proceeds could help alleviate the costs of running it.
Ultimately, he said the diversity being brought in was a good thing. Now that the programmers had built a system, it was time for the designers to move in. They created applications and platforms to make trading currencies easier for laypeople, as well as institutions to back them and stabilize their values.
“Now, we get to see the future of how all this new technology is going to be built upon,” he said.
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