Ripple’s Swell conference—now underway this week in a swank San Francisco event space—fits the established pattern of blockchain and cryptocurrency events. Celebrities provide the glitz and the glamour, and the crypto companies finance the parties.
Today (Oct. 1) it was former US president Bill Clinton speaking in his characteristic southern drawl about the importance of blockchain technology. Tonight, Counting Crows performs. At Ripple’s May event, it was Snoop Dogg.
The splashy events don’t just elevate the company, however. They also boost Ripple’s crypto token, XRP, whose price has shot up in recent weeks.
As much as Ripple pleads it’s a disinterested user of XRP, the company is doing an awful lot to bring attention to the controversial digital asset. As the largest holder of XRP tokens, which it keeps in a massive escrow reserve, Ripple is a defendant in class-action lawsuits about whether XRP should be regulated like a stock (the ostensibly centralized control and ownership of XRP could factor into the outcome of the case). In the month preceding Swell, XRP has more than doubled in value and at one point, XRP even briefly surpassed the market cap of ethereum, a prominent rival token.
Along with the conference, XRP’s climb might be due to speculation about an impending live product. Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse denies that the company’s statements have had an impact on the XRP price though. Speaking to Quartz Sept. 28, he noted that the price jump occurred a few days (rather than hours) after the company hinted at expansion. Now, XRP claims a market capitalization of $21 billion, as circulating XRP tokens trade for $0.55 apiece.