Two-thirds of The Ledger team—including me and Robert Hackett—were in Lisbon, Portugal last week for the massive Web Summit conference, where we spent much of our time talking blockchain and fintech (in between samplings of the city’s delicious egg tarts, pasteis de nata).
I had the opportunity to interview two people who made some of the boldest predictions about cryptocurrency prices over the past year: Tim Draper, the DFJ venture capitalist, who predicted that the Bitcoin price would hit $250,000 by 2022, and Peter Smith, the CEO and cofounder of wallet company Blockchain, who thought the total market value of cryptocurrencies would reach $1 trillion in 2018 (the current figure stands at about $212 billion).
Naturally, I wanted to know if they were standing by their predictions some eleven months into the cryptocurrency bear market, with Bitcoin’s price hovering around $6,400, nearly 70% below its peak.
Here’s how they responded during a panel on Web Summit’s centre stage—plus a few other predictions:
Draper: Well of course! Because there is $86 trillion worth of [fiat] currency out there in the world. We’re talking about getting to about 5% market share to get to $250,000 [per Bitcoin], and that seems like a drop in the bucket. And all we need to really do is make it so Bitcoin can be used to buy Starbucks coffee, and all of a sudden the world just opens up.
Smith: The other side of the prediction was that I expected the crypto markets to cool off for most of the next year….That said, the crypto market is so nascent today and so a quarter of a trillion, a half a trillion, a trillion—it’s still very small relative to the global financial services market….It means that there’s a lot of growth ahead.
WILL THE PRICE OF BITCOIN BE HIGHER OR LOWER IN A YEAR?
Smith: I am still really optimistic about the future of Bitcoin, and still personally allocating into Bitcoin. Higher.
Draper: So my prediction at $250,000 for 2022, maybe 2023 but in that range, is absolutely solid, but I’m not so sure how we’re going to get there, because it’s getting manipulated. A year from now, it’s higher.
ON COINBASE’S FUTURE
Draper: What’s the point of going public? Coinbase should probably stay private for as long as they possibly can….that said, I think Coinbase will be a trillion dollar business.
Smith: My guess is the only crypto companies that will go public are crypto companies that either have a high need of capital—so you’re looking at mining companies—or companies that have a cap table that’s at least 50% investors. I think a lot of those early companies are going to be put under a lot of pressure to go public despite the fact that it won’t make a lot of sense.
ON WHETHER BANKS WILL BUY CRYPTO COMPANIES
Smith: So I’ve talked to these institutions for years now and we work with some of them. The challenge for them is by the time they realize they need to go all in on the strategy, they probably won’t be able to afford one of the large crypto companies.
Draper: I would agree that Goldman [Sachs]—they’re going to be too late to buy these companies. And all they’re going to have is fiat currency to buy the company with. They better start buying Bitcoin if they’re going to try to buy one….If Goldman recognizes that they can only buy Coinbase with Bitcoin and they can’t use that fiat junk, then this won’t work for them and they’re going to have to buy it up and then the price will go up.
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BALANCING THE LEDGER
No Balancing the Ledger last week, but here's an interview I did at Web Summit in Portugal on Nov. 6 with Garry Tan, cofounder of Initialized Capital, which invested in Coinbase; Tim Draper, the DFJ venture capitalist and Bitcoin bull; and Peter Smith, CEO and cofounder of Blockchain. We talked Coinbase's valuation, Bitcoin price predictions, and much more.
Blockchain buzz. Corporate America isn't talking about blockchain as much as it used to, at least not with Wall Street, according to Axios, which tallied up mentions of the word "blockchain" by S&P 500 companies. Such mentions have fallen some 80% since the second quarter of 2018, when they peaked at 173—as executives apparently thought namedropping the technology would be good for their stock returns.
MEMES AND MUMBLES
Captain Kirk Gives Crypto a Thumbs Up. William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, has been tweeting lately to various personalities in the crypto galaxy. And his emoji preference seems to convey one universal message: To the moon, of course.
Still, Shatner himself notes that his thumbs-up emoticon has been misinterpreted in the past—particularly by certain cryptocurrency conference organizers.
Looks like if you want Shatner to attend your conference, you'll have to beam him up.
FOMO NO MO'
Don't miss out: Is Uber getting into crypto? Probably not, but that didn't stop entrepreneur Sam Lessin from arguing in The Information that Uber is perfectly positioned to launch its own cryptocurrency, particularly after introducing Uber Cash in September. "In a sense, if you want to squint, it is almost as though Uber is doing a presale or an ICO without actually launching a cryptocurrency," Lessin writes. He calls his vision a "fantasy," but he still makes a pretty convincing case for an Uber Coin:
What makes Uber such a tantalizing candidate as a platform for launching a global cryptocurrency is that people already think of it as a commerce platform with tens of billions of dollars in near peer-to-peer transactions. Consumers pay through it and drivers are paid by it. My credit card is already connected to Uber as a consumer. The bank accounts of millions of drivers are as well. The incentive for me to “load up” into an Uber-based currency is already there and easy for me to understand. Further, what makes Uber a really interesting platform for bootstrapping a cryptocurrency is just how global it is—with a large number of immigrant drivers who make money with Uber and who are likely sending at least part of their earnings home across borders....This is a very powerful place to start from if you are looking to build a serious cryptocurrency player and ecosystem.
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