The blockchain boom of 2017 was exhilarating for observers (and occasionally, investors). But since December, prices on Bitcoin have plummeted some -60%, a stunning figure that has caused plenty of existential hand-wringing among neophyte investors lured by sky-high prices. Surely, after such massive highs, this was the death knell for bitcoin—and by extension, all cryptocurrencies. Right?
Not even close.
The startup world certainly didn’t get the message that the crypto craze was over—job listings have doubled for blockchain-based companies since January 2018. Sharp upticks in initial coin offerings (ICOs) saw $3 billion raised by companies through token sales in March alone. As the industry has matured, new types of businesses have emerged, aiming to capitalize on this brave, new decentralized world.
Cryptocurrency hedge funds now exist to invest in blockchain-based digital assets. MetaStable Capital paved the way in 2014 – they tout coin-focused portfolios that remove liquidity and company-based investment risks. Polychain Capital, which followed in 2016, is an investment firm based in San Francisco “committed to exceptional returns for investors through actively managed portfolios of these blockchain assets.” While not coin-focused, Polychain invests in “protocols, not companies,” and Silicon Valley has responded with $210 million in funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.
Numerous startups are tackling decentralized finance. 0x Protocol is a decentralized token exchange built on top of the Ethereum blockchain that reduces blockchain slowdowns by moving transactions off-chain through a tool called relayers, which broadcast orders and collect fees when they facilitate trades. Stellar, an open payment platform using blockchain technology that allows people, businesses, and financial institutions around the world to send money in any currency at a very low cost, uses open-source code – a hallmark of many crypto projects.
Some people (including numerous prominent investors) are high on the decentralized internet – an alternative to the internet’s current iteration that places a premium on privacy and data ownership and seems capable of leveling the playing field against industry giants like Facebook and Google. Blockstack is a browser incorporating decentralized apps, or dapps (dee-apps) to give users control over their data. Another browser called Brave counts Mozilla’s founder as part of team – the company recently raised $30 million to further their quest to create a “safer, faster, and better browsing experience…while growing support for content creators through a new attention-based ecosystem of rewards.”
New, exciting use cases for blockchain technology are constantly revealing themselves. Cryptocurrency is here to stay, but the blockchain technology that underpins it may be stealing more and more of the spotlight – to everyone’s benefit.
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