Crypto was in a different place when Paris Blockchain Week organizers planned this year’s event in the Carrousel Du Louvre. “To be honest with you, we made the choice before the bear market,” said co-founder and president Michael Amar in an interview with The Block. “It was quite complex since it wasn’t meant for conferences…pretty it’s uncommon to go to a crypto conference in such a setting.”
Although the crypto sector has soured significantly since then, the conference still buzzed with the energy of a bull market as attendees marched past web3 gaming simulators, signs asking passersby to tell all about their “Cex life,” and even dwarfs dressed in clown outfits (for reasons unknown to The Block) to attend PBW’s many panels and keynotes.
The ceremony went smoothly, unlike last year when a tarpaulin almost fell over Binance’s Changpeng Zhao. The city caused this commotion. Tens of thousands of protestors filled the city of romance with trash bags and burning rubble (not, thankfully, to protest the conference or crypto more generally.) Like the bad market, conference organizers probably didn’t expect countrywide protests opposing raising the retirement age.
With crypto’s recent bankruptcy, arrests, and market instability, the agitation was fitting. Protesters marched by the Louvre on the penultimate day, nearly encountering the crypto crew. Google, Amazon, and Reddit nonetheless attended the protests, which delayed the king of England’s journey to France.
Charlie Meraud, market maker Woorton CEO and PBW co-founder, said 1,500 people attended the event in 2019. Before hiring a larger staff, he organized the event and led the market maker.“I was citing markets throughout the day and physically pursuing speakers at night,” he joked. The conference currently has 8,500 registrants, even if blockchain has lost some luster to AI.
Ledger CEO Pascal Gauthier said PBW and the French ecosystem have matured together since serial entrepreneur Eric Larchevêque and Thomas France founded La Maison du Bitcoin in 2014. France and Larchevêque discovered Ledger. “Eric said, ‘I’m going to construct a crypto center,’ which had no commercial plan. Gauthier called it a crypto WeWork. But immediately it became a physical place where you could buy bitcoin with cash and credit card and host meetups and hackathons.
The Maison du Bitcoin became Coinhouse in early 2018. The location hosted a 2015 hackathon that created Ledger.
During PBW, French brands debate blockchain’s benefits. AXA, PSG, LVMH, Kering, and Givenchy mingled with crypto conference regulars like Animoca Brands Chairman Yat Siu, Tim Draper, and Circle’s Jeremy Allaire. The Block interviewed French crypto players at the conference who said this combination of corporations, culture, and crypto is unique to France. Amar of PBW says Bpifrance supports numerous interactions. Ivan De Lastours, Bpifrance’s crypto head, told The Block last year that France’s creative industries—gaming, film, and fashion—helped its ecosystem.
Pierre Nicolas Hurstel, co-founder and CEO of Arianee, which provides infrastructure for premium businesses entering web3, recalls a different time. He claims the business exclusively targeted the luxury sector because web3 could solve the industry’s scarcity, ownership, and transferability issues. Its flagship Digital Passport NFT is coined on its protocol and linked to a luxury good to verify its authenticity and track its repairs, resells, and ownership transfers.
Arianee’s initial target, Vacheron Constantin, trialed the passport in 2019 thanks to risk-taking decision-makers. “People inside the organization fought to make it work,” he recalled of his first wallet brand meetings. Vacheron Constantin launched it product-wide in late 2021. That’s one example of Ledger’s Gauthier’s “extremely organic” and two-way relationship between France’s luxury market and crypto.
This month’s NFT Paris and Station F’s incubator programs, run by LVMH and L’Oréal, brought crypto businesses and luxury brands together.
The French ecology has had more than luxury NFT drops and Punks at the Pompidou this year. This year’s crypto crash hit its OG player Coinhouse. According to Les Echoes, it suspended its yield products, for which FTX and crypto lender Genesis were counterparties, in November. CEO Nicolas Louvet informed The Block via email that 92% of customers have been fully refunded and 7% have kept a portion of the funds locked to collect when the counterparties become liquid again.
The first crypto business to register with the country’s regulatory authorities, the firm was named as a Genesis bankruptcy creditor with a claim of close to $15 million.
The French ecosystem’s contagion caused a regulatory wobble, prompting tougher legislation. Last month, crypto license regulations were relaxed.
Last year, Crypto.com and Binance pledged millions to the French ecosystem, but the results are yet unknown. PBW’s Amar admitted that exchanges were less visible this year, but he wasn’t sure why. France remains Binance’s European hub, a spokeswoman told The Block. The spokeswoman said Binance is implementing its €100 million investment from last year, creating 150 jobs and launching a Paris office.
“Just like banks, we’re now finding that things we assumed couldn’t fail can,” said market maker Flowdesk’s Guilhem Chaumont. Token issuers can use its crypto market creating service. Fashion and art are forming blockchain ties with Paris, but infrastructure is lagging. Circle chose it as its EU headquarters while it seeks a full French license. A Euro-denominated stablecoin’s widespread adoption is still a dream.
According to The Block Research, Ethereum fiat stablecoin supply is nearly 100% USD stablecoins. “We expected a big Euro inflow, but that hasn’t happened. Chaumont thought a Euro stablecoin could have shined. The Euler hack depegged Angle protocol’s AgEUR, a popular euro stablecoin. If Circle registers with the country’s regulators, it might “onshore” its euro-backed stablecoin EUROC, barring another bank run. Flowdesk and Ledger, French crypto companies, say things are going well despite the sector’s struggles.
Chaumont stated March was their greatest month. “We onboarded eight or nine token issuers and revenues and volume are at an all-time high.” Gauthier said Ledger’s income peaked in November when FTX crashed. Hurstel added that web3’s luxury hunger will persist. Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron struggles to calm protesters. The country’s determination to become Europe’s crypto powerhouse is unquenchable.