Denver is not just home to the Rockies, the largest mountain system in North America. The Mile-High City is where ETHDenver takes place, an annual community-run gathering for those curious about smart contracts, decentralized finance, and blockchain networks. 

For the past decade, Denver has acted as a physical gateway to a new internet, serving as the entry point for people to meet others and coordinate building a digital landscape intended to be both permissionless and open-sourced. 

As snow falls, some crypto enthusiasts are already in Denver, participating in hackathons, networking for potential investment deals, and learning more about the underlying technologies that power decentralized networks. 

Watch Laura Shin’s interview with John Paller, founder of ETHDenver.

This year’s ETHDenver finds itself at the convergence of several significant events in the crypto space. It comes a few weeks before Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain network by market cap, will undergo its Dencun upgrade, which is expected to substantially improve transaction cost efficiencies for layer 2 rollups. 

The “innovation festival,” as ETHDenver’s landing page calls it, also comes as competition among layer 2 scaling solutions is ramping up, with some networks maturing and others just joining the race. 

Arbitrum and Optimism, with a total locked value of $3.186 billion and $929 million respectively, according to blockchain analytics firm DefiLlama, have been operational for several years, gearing up for the next stage of their blockchain networks. 

Read more: Is Ether Heading for $3,500? 

On the other hand, new layer 2s, some connected to centralized exchanges such as Base and Mantle, have gone live on public mainnets within the past 12 months. 

One newer layer 2 blockchain network, Blast, has attracted over $2 billion in crypto assets from a total of about 165,000 users, and yet the protocol has yet to activate its public mainnet. The Blast team announced on X that they would roll out Blast’s mainnet on Thursday, the same day ETHDenver founder John Paller and Colorado governor Jared Polls conduct the conference’s opening ceremony.

Representatives of Arbitrum, Optimism, Base, and Mantle, among other Ethereum rollups, will be in Denver. 

New Proposals and Techniques

In addition to fresh layer 2 entrants, applications and protocols on Ethereum have seen new proposals and techniques. For example, EigenLayer, widely known for introducing a new mechanism called “restaking,” has accumulated $8.88 billion in locked value in its smart contracts since it launched in June 2023. 

Meanwhile, the largest decentralized exchange by trading volume, Uniswap, is undergoing community discussions following Uniswap Foundation governance lead Erin Koen’s proposal to distribute fees generated by the protocol to UNI token holders. 

“2024 will be a year of growth, but also a year of evolution for crypto”, wrote Alex Thorn, head of research at Galaxy, in a report published in late January. In that vein, Ethereum’s multifaceted landscape is simultaneously maturing and changing, marked by technological experiments and strategic shifts within the space. 

Contributors from EigenLayer, Uniswap, and other protocols will also be taking part in ETHDenver, and so those attending the conference can expect discussions inspired by panels, fireside chats, and even casual small talk, about the various elements of Ethereum: layer 2 scaling solutions, governance proposals, and staking techniques.


ETHDenver also comes as crypto lobbyists, lawyers, and regulators are preparing for the upcoming U.S. primary elections slated to start in April. As such, attendees can anticipate people sharing their views on the  United States’ current political scene. 

Policymakers have historically played an integral role in the crypto space through legislation and public remarks. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Feb. 2 in a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs that “cyber criminals are exploiting cryptocurrency to scam American consumers out of billions of dollars every year.” 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has not only released a few NFT collections but also said in a Fox News town hall event in South Carolina on Feb. 24 that he could “live with” people wanting to pay with BTC, after previously being fairly critical of the cryptocurrency. 

Notably, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission also approved several spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) last month, causing investors to speculate on when the SEC, headed by Gary Gensler, will approve spot ether ETFs. 

At ETHDenver, several political figures will be speaking as well. On Thursday, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce will be part of a fireside chat about public goods. U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will have a conversation on Saturday with the founder and CEO of Custodia Bank, Caitlin Long, about the role of blockchain policy. Colorado’s congressional representative Brittany Pettersen, who is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, will also be speaking on Saturday about the “Crypto Conversation in D.C.”  

Bitcoiners, Solana Enthusiasts, and Avalanche Loyalists Pull Up, Too

While ETHDenver initially was started by people intimately tied to the Ethereum community, the annual multi-day conference has drawn in individuals and communities outside of Ethereum, such as Bitcoin, Avalanche, and Solana. 

Last Friday, Solana Foundation developer advocate Nick Frostbutter spearheaded a workshop at ETHDenver to help people get started on Solana.

Crypto enthusiasts can also attend the Hack House hosted by Ava Labs, the software development firm behind Avalanche, another layer 1 blockchain like Ethereum and Solana. “Looking forward to attending ETHDenver next week, going to check out the Avalanche hack House and catch up with some of my good friends in the Ethereum community,” Emin Gün Sirer, founder and CEO of Ava Labs, wrote on X last week.

Denver will have Bitcoiners, too, as Bitcoin Renaissance, an event focused on the “synergies between Bitcoin and [Proof of Stake] chains,” like Ethereum, takes place on Thursday

Attendees will have the opportunity to engage, learn, and listen generously to individuals from a diverse range of blockchain ecosystems within and beyond Ethereum, the incumbent leader of smart contract functionality. 

In the waning days of winter, Denver, already a physical portal to a new internet some have named “Web3,”  heralds a dynamic atmosphere where people are meeting up to push the boundaries of decentralized networks.

Unchained is a media partner of ETHDenver and will cover the conference. Stay tuned!