Crypto bros descend on ‘Silicon Bali’

With its ocean views and beach resorts, Bali has long attracted surfers and tourists alike. Today, it is also a major destination for cryptography enthusiasts around the world.

Among the newcomers is 33-year-old Russian bloc businesswoman Ilia Maksimenka, who arrived on the Indonesian island in 2020, shortly after the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It’s very easy to meet the right people,” he said. “In terms of Southeast Asia, Bali is like the [international] crypto center now “.

Although the pandemic has slowed international tourism, the increase in work at home has also led many people to reconsider how comfortable they are living in cities that have traditionally been business centers. For Maksimenka, who comes from Moscow, Bali was an exotic alternative.

“When you come to Bali, you can have a life 10 times cheaper than in California. But you have the same level of comfort and a much higher quality of food. People prefer to come here and live tropical life,” he said.

In the Bali expat community, who like to be described as “digital nomads”, crypto is a common interest. On social media, many boast of the fortunes they have made by trading cryptocurrencies in sunlit homes, while friends spend in cramped apartments back home.

Tokocrypto Office in Jakarta, Indonesia © Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg

“[We’re] working on [these] hippy places. And you start seeing Lamborghinis, “said Emilio Canessa, an Italian who works in internet computer marketing, a project of the blockchain company Dfinity.” The caliber of the people here. . . It’s crazy. “

“They started calling this place Silicon Bali,” he added.

Tokocrypto, an Indonesian cryptocurrency exchange, says it now has 37,660 registered users in Bali, compared to just 808 in early 2021. People in the Bali cryptocurrency community with whom the Financial Times spoke had diverse interests, including trading in cryptocurrencies. non-fungible tokens, metaverse, and decentralized finance. But most newcomers fit into a particular mold.

“It’s very heavy for men. White men, people in their twenties,” said Antria Dwi Lestari, who works on community engagement for Tokocrypto in Bali.

As more of these young people from all over the world flock to Bali in search of the cryptographic dream, companies have discovered an opportunity. This year, Tokocrypto launched T-Hub, a “cryptographic clubhouse” in Bali with a shared workspace and pool. Indodax, another Indonesian cryptocurrency exchange, has its second office on the island. Canessa suggested that her company establish a “community-centered cultural presence.”

At the same time, other companies in Bali are struggling. Up to 80 percent of the island’s economy depends on tourism, a revenue stream that was virtually cut short during the pandemic.

The influx of cryptographic migrants will not compensate for this loss of income. Only 51 tourists visited the island last year, according to the Bali statistics office, compared to more than 6 million annually before the pandemic. Some parts of the island were almost empty.

Those in the crypto community are not blind to the local businesses fighting around them. Last year, an anonymous group launched Bali Token, a cryptographic token. According to its website, it can be used as a “discount voucher” in “any tourist place in Bali”, helping “a million people”.[s] of Balinese. . . to stay strong during Covid-19. ”The token value fell nearly 100 percent from its peak in January, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.

Up to 80 percent of Bali’s economy depends on tourism © Sonny Tumberlaka / AFP / Getty Images

Separately, an online petition called on the Indonesian government to create a “remote worker visa” to boost the “digital and creative economy” as Bali struggles with the tourism drought. 3,416 people have signed up since it was launched two years ago.

The petition says that without a specialized permit, remote workers in places like Bali often have an ambiguous legal status.

Maksimenka suggested that many social media posts about Bali should be treated with skepticism.

“Most of these golden kids who tried to show off their riches [on social media], they are usually scammers, ”he said. Only about 10 percent of Bali’s crypto community is “serious about technology,” he added, while the rest are “just jumping on the bandwagon” and trying to make money.

Mega Septiandara, an Indonesian who works remotely for a Bali investment firm, also suggested that not all expats are on the island in the long run.

“I have a job and I’m still alive. Crypto is good. I have a good secondary income for that, “he said.

But others “are trying to make a fortune,” he added. “Some are struggling a bit and have decided to return to their home country. [They] maybe it’s a little boring in Bali. After a while, it’s just, ‘Oh, it’s the beach.’

Video: Highlights of the FT Digital and Cryptographic Assets Summit | FT live

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