While history repeating is never guaranteed, it is certainly something to pay attention to.
Of course, as we’ve found throughout this year, a slow market does not mean a slow news cycle.
Most notably, we saw the 10 year anniversary of Bitcoin’s whitepaper. It’s a solemn reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.
Looking back at 2018, here’s what I found about this industry:
- ICOs are old news.
Many of the booths for ICOs were poorly staffed, crudely marketed, and inadequately showcased their product, if they had one at all.
- Mining has become its own industry, and it’s increasingly corporate.
The home-mining dream is mostly dead. The only representatives there were selling their ASIC solutions and represented further abstraction from Bitcoin’s humble beginnings. Mining, like ICOs, is old news.
- The crypto industry is wide and diverse.
Many of the people I spoke to had origins in very different industries, and this “melting pot” effect was on full display for a conference with 1000+ attendees.
- We’re entering a new era of institutional investment and government regulation.
In addition to all the institutional news we’ve received over the past couple months, it was fully apparent to me that the maturation of this space is happening here and now.
While there are eye-rolling examples of crypto’s past at crypto conferences, such as lamborghinis with bikini-clad women standing next to them, what really stood out to me was the very subtle trend in the background. Representatives of banks, hedge funds, VCs, and regulation-focused projects were all on the outskirts of the flashy showrooms. The handshakes and deal-signings done in the backrooms of this conference will have more effect on this space in a short amount of time than whatever was being advertised on that Murciélago.
The crypto industry is going in so many different directions at once that it may soon look nothing like it does today.
In essence, the cryptocurrency space is not receding. We are moving forward full-steam. A market recovery under the pretense of a expanding and innovative space, rather than one of mostly speculation and hype, will shepard us into a whole new era.
What struck me about the conversations I had were several things:
- Just about everyone I talked to, from my Lyft drivers to my airplane neighbor to many of the casino patrons I met, all were interested in crypto. Most know the basics of cryptocurrency or how the market imploded, but were still interested to know more. “Is now a good time to invest?” was the #1 question I received.
- At the DSO (Digital Securities Offerings, aka, Security Token Offering) panels, the main concerns were around regulation and custody. However, all the qualified panelists did a good job highlighting how those concerns are being reduced as more companies become qualified custodians and how governments are increasingly willing to work with this space to develop rational regulation.
- There is a lot of fear across the board regarding traditional financial markets. Combined with a lack of trust in the government and a sense of impending recession / fiat inflation, investors and companies are increasingly accepting of the paradigm shift offered with cryptocurrencies.
- Many investors are also reluctant to place faith in stocks and bonds with an increasingly turbulent public market. Again, the sense of an impending recession has investors nervous and willing to consider alternative investments.
- Despite the common belief that cryptocurrency is the domain of millennials in their 20’s and 30’s (guilty!), the average age of those I talked to was certainly shifted higher. In effect, what we’re seeing in crypto is the technological expertise of the younger generations being combined with the financial and business expertise of older generations. Cryptocurrency is often described as a grand social experiment, and I think this is indicative of that.
Want proof of what’s yet to come?
- Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley released a report stating that cryptocurrencies have become “a new institutional investment class.”
- Fidelity announced their new institutional crypto platform, Fidelity Digital Assets, solely dedicated to custody and investing in crypto.
- Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund invested directly in Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume.
- Major endowments, known for being conservative in their investments, have moved into crypto, such as Yale, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Notre Dame, and UNC.
- Major institutions such as Goldman Sachs and TD Ameritrade have announced their intentions to empower clients to trade cryptocurrency and derivatives.
- Some of the largest exchanges in the world, such as the NYSE and NASDAQ, are explicitly moving into this space and fully intend to let retail investors openly trade cryptocurrency
Not only that, but we now know that the SEC is ready to deliver their updated remarks on the previously-rejected Bitcoin ETFs:
“Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to Commission Rule of Practice 431, that by November 5, 2018, any party or other person may file a statement in support of, or in opposition to, the action made pursuant to delegated authority.”
While we have no expectations that they will change their original conclusions, it will hopefully be an opportunity to see why they opened the previously closed applications, and how that may play into the inevitable decision of the VanEck / SolidX Bitcoin ETF still under review.
Whatever the case, we’re in uncharted waters.
Crypto was previously an unacceptable topic at investment committees and trustee board meetings. It used to be seen as a poor choice to suggest investments in digital assets.
That changed in 2018 though.
Crypto is now a topic of discussion for institutional investors all over the world. They are racing each other to get in first.
It is no longer a question of “if,” but “when.”