Symptomatic of a broader shift internationally, the crypto landscape in Dublin has changed rapidly, and with an enthusiasm perhaps disproportionate to the city’s scale.
Suddenly perforated with meetups, ICO startups, crypto cafes, bitcoin merchandise and trading chatter in pubs, cryptocurrencies have seemingly taken the city by storm – and Reuben Godfrey, co-founder of local incubator Crypto Coast reckons this momentum will only continue.
Toward this, he’s planted an office on the pier of coastal suburb Dun Laoghaire, in a venture that he hopes to spread all along the east coast of Ireland, and to many other ports in the world as well.
“We’ll look at Boston, Barcelona, Moscow, Kiev, where else are we talking to, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Lucerne in Switzerland, you know, stick a name on the map,” Godfrey told CoinDesk.
Following a wave of blockchain hubs that have emerged internationally, the Crypto Coast hopes to connect local industry workers, while attracting international businesses and investment.
And in the few days since its launch, it’s already attracted some international players, Russia and U.S.-based startups Coinfideal and Rewards Token, drawing some students and researchers in the process.
“We’re just providing a dance floor for people to come up and do whatever they want on basically.”
And while it’s facing competition from established blockchain hubs internationally (as well as Europe’s more traditional startup centers like London and Berlin), Reuben reckons Ireland has an advantage.
“As a place to do business, Ireland is absolutely world class. We’ve some of the best brains I’ve ever come across. And for sparky, innovative stuff that we need to be doing with blockchain, there could be nowhere better. I am absolutely adamant about that,” Godfrey said.
Down the line, Crypto Coast even hopes to launch its own local cryptocurrency, potentially a token that buys up distressed property in order to “deflate the housing crises usually made worse by tech hubs.”
That’s the “next phase,” Godfrey told CoinDesk.
Stepping back, Godfrey is no stranger to the space. He set up the Blockchain Association of Ireland back in 2015, which has since been home to many meetups, as well as forging the early stages of Dublin’s crypto community.
While such efforts were successful, sometimes drawing as many as an estimated 100 people, he acknowledges the city has changed, and that is has developed a bigger appetite for crypto. Blockchain meetups were faced with increasingly long waiting lists, with attendees spilling out into the hundreds.
“I think people are just ripe, ready to trust in it,” Godfrey said, pointing to how quickly Ireland adapted the euro when the national currency changed in 1999. “It was instant, it didn’t take long, we got the concept.”
Adding to this, Godfrey said that the shift in public interest has to do with an increasing number of people engaged in cryptocurrency trading.
“We’re also obviously a nation of gamblers,” Godfrey laughed, adding, “If that’s what converts a big percentage of Irish people into it, that’s fine.”
But to cope with this, the community needed to expand out of obscurity, and crucially for Godfrey, into something more friendly and accessible to the broader public. This led to the creation of Crypto AM, a Saturday morning meetup at the Crypto Coast that’s engineered to have a broader appeal.
“[We need a] far more accessible entry point for people to get involved, to ask questions, to hear about the bigger concepts and understand a bit more about crypto,” Godfrey said,
“And the more you get into it, the more you realize it’s not about making money, it’s about changing it,” he added.
Clunky bits of symbolism
Part of a broader venture named Harbour Innovation Labs that hopes to supply working space for up to a thousand people, the Crypto Coast is situated on the site of an old ferry terminal.
“The space it pretty much ticks all the ICO boxes, in another universe it would be used by a Bond villain, you know, a secret lair,” Godfrey said.
And for Godfrey, this particular Dublin suburb is rich in symbolic value.
“There’s a few clunky bits of symbolism about it. Those are important for me as well, or certainly part of what made me think it was possible to do something here,” Godfrey said.
He stated that, as a town, Dun Laoghaire owes itself to the industrial revolution, and the invention of the railroad along the Dublin coastline. “Dun Laoghaire train station was the first ever commuter rail station in the world,” Godfrey said.
As such, according to Godfrey, there’s no better site for Ireland to become leaders in the cryptocurrency revolution, telling CoinDesk, “If it happened once, then why not again?”
And there’s another, more melancholic resonance at the site of the ferry terminal as well.
“We’re on the ferry terminal where tens of thousands of Irish people left during the ’80s, got on the boat and never came back, went over to Britain and never came back.” Godfrey said.
And while emigration has reduced in recent years, it’s still the highest in Europe, with over a quarter of a million leaving since 2008.
“I’m absolutely sick to death of it.” Godfrey said.
In that, Godfrey hopes the venture will play a part in decreasing those numbers, as well as possibly encouraging those who have left to return to familiar shores.
“I want to have a place [where] instead of having to seek out meetups, you can stand up from your desk and have a workshop… A safe space for crypto people.”