Experts Share: What Are the Main Crypto Conclusions of 2019

Paolo Ardoino, Chief technology officer of Bitfinex

A big setback for the industry this year has unfortunately been the scams that continue to take place in crypto, a recent notable example being the PlusToken scandal. In terms of the biggest milestones, it is important to note the continued development of the Lightning Network within the ecosystem.

Marc P. Bernegger, Fintech investor at Crypto Finance AG

The crash and rebound of the Bitcoin price, the start of the Libra project by Facebook and the announcement of the digital Chinese currency were some of my highlights in 2019.

Personally, I was of course very pleased that we were able to launch one of the most successful crypto funds in the world at Crypto Finance Group with our Crypto Quant Fund in 2019 (this has already won various performance awards).

Paul Brody, Blockchain lead at Ernst & Young

For 2019, this was a year of big transition for EY. The era of proof of concept is largely over and instead people became focused on going to production for their enterprise solutions. The downside here, though, is that they ran straight into the roadblock of partner adoption. Private blockchains are expensive and they don’t scale up very well, when it comes to partner on-boarding. (A study conducted by Forrester on behalf of EY in November 2019 confirmed this). The good news is that by the end of 2019, I think we had largely solved the cost challenges for doing business securely on public blockchains (see here) and we look ahead to 2020 to see the migration of enterprise users to the public Ethereum mainnet. The crypto market also felt like it was treading water in 2019, with big anticipated changes like Lightning not appearing to have much impact. That being said, what may look like treading water on the surface conceals an enormous transformation on the engineering side. For all the obsession around tech firms doing things quickly, the reality is big changes can take a year or more to flow from concept to product to client adoption. At EY, our engineers were very busy in 2019 and this will only continue in 2020.

Virginia Cram-Martos, CEO of Triangularity

For me, 2019 was the year —

  1. That crypto found its way onto the “top 10” topics of many politicians and central bankers.
  2. Of blockchain turbulence in China, which ended on a positive note in late October — but which created waves moving out across the rest of the world.
  3. Of increasing legal constraints which have transformed offerings (ICOs) into an option only for those with very well-funded legal and regulatory compliance teams. Still perhaps cheaper than initial public offerings (IPOs) — but the gap is closing.
  4. That business leaders began to recognize hype as being “hype”; to understand that the benefits from blockchain, while very real, have limits, some of which are linked to the “tolerance of change” within their own organizations; and to see that the implementation of blockchain technology, for example, for traceability, can be complex.
  5. That blockchain developers also began to realize the importance of barriers to implementation created by the complexity of supply chains and organizational culture.

Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, Founder and CEO of Binance

There is a growing amount of governments across the globe examining blockchain and cryptocurrencies, including stablecoins, as well as self-regulated and global regulatory standards, which indicate more widespread public adoption. I think in 2020 we will see different experiments tried by many different governments around the globe for adoption, some will work, some may not, but overall, they will have a tremendously positive effect for crypto adoption.

Alejandro De La Torre, Vice president at Poolin

2019 was a year of mining. The hashpower steadily increased throughout the year to reach an all-time high of 100 exahashes, a record for Bitcoin. The hashpower increased even though the price fluctuated wildly and was bearish in general. This shows me that crypto, and more specifically Bitcoin, is here to stay. The confidence the mining ecosystem showed regardless of the price is an extremely good sign for the Bitcoin cryptocurrency industry for future years. It points to the fact that these people mining believe in Bitcoin and its potential. Another huge impression of 2019 for me was the advent of multiple upgrades to the mining protocol, namely Stratum v1. Keep in mind that Stratum v1 has not been updated for basically the whole entire time pool mining becomes a thing. The great brains behind Braiins (pun intended) developed and launched Stratum v2. An important step for further decentralization of the mining process. Additionally, other mining pools like the one I currently work at, Poolin, are also developing a new mining protocol also furthering decentralization. Poolin calls it Bitcoin Universal Mining Protocol, or BUMP, for short. Information on our open-source protocol will be released in 2020.

John deVadoss, Head of development at Neo

2019 was the year that kept crypto and blockchain in the headlines of the mainstream media. It was no more a question of what or why — it became a question of when cryptocurrencies would gain prominence, and potentially lead the way.

Three big milestones happened this year.

In July, Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, gave testimony about the Libra project before the Senate Banking Committee. For the first time, elected officials in the U.S. had an opportunity to understand the implications of cryptocurrencies, and the need to balance financial innovation in a “safe and sound way,” as he phrased it.

In October, President Xi Jinping publicly encouraged China to “accelerate the development of blockchain and industrial innovation.” This was a remarkable indicator: a message unlike one from any other leader on the global stage and that has since catalyzed an extraordinary wave of investment and innovation.

And just earlier this week, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), which serves as the central bank for central banks, initiated dialogue to formulate a crypto asset policy for banks worldwide. The BIS wants to design “a prudential treatment for banks' crypto-asset exposures,” as they phrased it.

Collectively, these are a sign of the extraordinary times that we live in.

Daniel Diemers, Head of blockchain at PwC

Well, we all witnessed the soft and pleasant increase in temperature after the “Crypto Winter,” but the Crypto Spring of the last 6–8 months was more of a sideways movement, which I still think is healthier overall for the ecosystem than if we’d gone straight into another steep price hike. Working as a bridge-builder between the blockchain/crypto world and incumbents and large corporates, what 2019 really stood for is final acceptance that “Crypto is Here to Stay.” For most of us, this sounds like an old narrative, but in the Board Rooms around the world, it’s not. Libra, in its own right, has helped here too, because seeing a large tech firm at the doorsteps launching such an ambitious blockchain project hammers that message straight home.

Denelle Dixon, CEO of Stellar Development Foundation

I joined the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) in mid-2019, right around the time when we started seeing broader public interest in the blockchain space as a result of new players in the market, like Facebook and JPMorgan. The entrance of these companies helped push blockchain into the mainstream conversation and build more credibility for the technology. It was an exciting moment to jump into the space and join discussions about the potential for the technology we’re building.  

In addition to the institutional interest in cryptocurrencies, the rising popularity of stablecoins continued to grow in 2019 — and we’ve witnessed that firsthand as new partners built on the Stellar Network. Whether that was Franklin Templeton using Stellar for a new fund or IBM signing on several banks to issue stablecoins on WorldWire this year, we saw this broader trend playing out in the Stellar ecosystem.

2019 was a big year for our industry as it generated increased momentum for blockchain. It was even more exciting for my organization because of the progress we’re making at Stellar to create greater access to the global financial system.

Arthur Hayes, CEO of BitMEX

Boring. Exciting. Boring again. That is how I would describe 2019. Things got exciting in the summer when Facebook announced Libra. 2019 was the year of the stablecoin. Although many people do not understand that stablecoins are essentially digitized versions of fiat currencies, it is positive that more people are embracing a digital monetary existence. Stablecoins may prove to be the gateway catalyst into a true cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Ivan on Tech, YouTube influencer

This has been an amazing year filled with opportunities and a lot has been accomplished in the industry. Bitcoin was an absolute rollercoaster, Facebook announced Libra, China has endorsed blockchain while condemning cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin technology has evolved with a lot of progress being done on Schnorr signatures, while Ethereum has surprised by the growth of DeFi protocols, such as Compound, Synthetix and Uniswap. The value locked in DeFi DApps has exploded from $190 million at the beginning of 2019 to $628 million today. Insane growth that highlights the importance of this industry.

Sasha Ivanov, Founder and CEO of Waves

2019 was a formative year for crypto, year of the next leg of the Gartner curve, the beginning of a steady growth. No breakthroughs have been achieved, rather we are laying the foundations for future advancements. I was impressed by a steady growth of enterprise blockchain, finally we can see a breakthrough in the level of understanding of blockchain concepts in business scenarios.

Christoph Iwaniez, Chief financial officer of Bitwala

It's been a great year! Many projects with smart people and good ideas have delivered products and further developments.

At Bitwala, we were of course very focused on our customers: About 12 months ago... with the free bank account and debit card for Bitcoin investors, we are virtually at zero launched. From Berlin, we now serve customers in all 31 countries of the European Economic Area. The customers are happy and so are we.

And so are our investors, by the way: In the summer, we made our largest investment to date ($13 million for a German blockchain start-up). The amount of the funding round and the well-known investors underline that even in a bear market a strong team, an innovative product and the actual implementation convince investors.

Sanja Kon, Vice president of global partnerships at Utrust

2019 was a remarkable year for blockchain and cryptocurrency development. We saw the birth of new trading products: Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic started paying close attention to the benefits of digital assets, and China entered the blockchain race in full force spending billions in its efforts to become the epicenter of development.

For me, undoubtedly the biggest milestone of 2019 was Libra. A seismic shift occurred across the globe following the announcement. Libra successfully goaded central banks around the world to start having a serious conversation about the digitization of currencies.

But it was by no means an easy ride, the prolonged bear market shook the industry. For Utrust, however, this was a blessing in disguise. We put our heads down and focused on building and improving our technology. We have not only survived but have thrived ever since.

Jonathan Levin, Co-founder and chief strategy officer of Chainalysis

At the beginning of this year, I predicted 3 major themes in cryptocurrency for 2019: Cryptocurrency would be embraced as “regtech” by financial institutions and regulators, it would play a vital role in sanctions enforcement, and Anti-Money Laundering practices (AML) would strengthen in Asia.

As it turns out, 2019 was an important year for cryptocurrency in terms of regulations, but more in terms of clarity provided by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FinCEN, than automating banks' compliance programs and regulatory oversight. Notably, for the first time, FinCEN explicitly states blockchain analysis is an important part of an effective AML solution and a significant factor in cryptocurrency businesses’ ability to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). FinCEN makes it clear that Know Your Customer (KYC) processes are also important, and cryptocurrency businesses should expect tough regulatory scrutiny on that as well next year.

We also saw further regulatory clarity from the SEC. For example, the Blockstack Reg A approval was the first approval of its kind and demonstrates a path to SEC-approved IPO-type fundraising with a crypto token. While other firms have previously taken advantage of Regulation A , this is the first time that investors will receive a token rather than shares in the company. 

Now that we have the regulatory clarity, I think 2020 will be an important year for embracing cryptocurrency as regtech.

Cryptocurrency did indeed continue to become important to sanctions enforcement, most notably related to fentanyl trafficking. I expect this trend to continue.

While our business expanded in Asia and Anti-Money Laundering practices there are strengthening, we still see the laundering of large amounts of illicit funds through some OTC brokers operating out of China. Funds stolen through the PlusToken scam is a good example of this.

One notable milestone that I didn't predict was major law enforcement announcements that credit blockchain analysis as a critical tool in identifying suspects and making arrests. The Department of Justice's announcement of the takedown of Welcome to Video, the largest ever child pornography site by amount of material stored, along with the arrest of its owner and operator and more than 337 site users across 38 countries along with the identification and rescue of 23 minors, was a major event for the industry. Law enforcement discussed how they were able to harness blockchain analysis to make arrests and rescues that otherwise would not have been possible. This was an important example of how blockchains can actually provide greater transparency into financial transactions, not less.

2019 also saw the entrance of major players into the cryptocurrency ecosystem, particularly Facebook and Fidelity. With Libra, Facebook has the opportunity to make cryptocurrency available to their massive user base, leading to its more pervasive use. Of course, this has the potential to create financial inclusion for both good and bad actors, and the risk of money laundering will need to be mitigated. Transaction monitoring will be needed to meet the expectations of regulators around the world. And Fidelity’s launch into custody and trading services for digital assets is also a boon for the industry and will pave the way for further adoption from financial institutions.

Finally, CME Bitcoin futures was an exciting development and I expect it to continue to pick up.

Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Celsius

2019 was a turbulent year, to say the least. I think all of us in the crypto community were hoping to reach new heights as far as mass adoption, but we just didn't get there yet. We are still a relatively small group of crypto nerds, but I’m hoping 2020 is the year that changes that. Without a doubt, Facebook’s Libra had the biggest impact on awareness for cryptocurrencies. Our friends in China announced they were getting into digital currencies and that woke up a few U.S. Senators to start having important conversations about our own digital currencies. By the time the U.S. government gets there, it will be too late.  

Samson Mow, Chief strategy officer of Blockstream

For 2019, we had a great year at Blockstream. We launched Blockstream Mining and are now one of the largest players in North America now with 300 MW of capacity. We also announced a new product, Liquid Securities, which is a platform that sits on top of the Liquid Network (Bitcoin sidechain) to allow companies to issue tokenized securities. We’re also seeing a lot of traction with the Liquid Network itself as Tether ($4 billion market cap stablecoin) launched support of it, and BTSE (cryptocurrency exchange) announced they will be raising $50 million through an exchange token issued on Liquid.

Niklas Nikolajsen, Chairman & Founder at Bitcoin Suisse

2019 was a year of consolidation and of developments in regulation, but also of commercial and technical progress. Bitcoin stabilized from the end-2017 hype, and regulators and banks all over the world started taking the topic of crypto assets seriously. Big news included, of course, Libra, ChinaCoin and the development of regulatory frameworks in the EU, Liechtenstein, Germany and other jurisdictions. On the commercial side, the launch of the first futures, ETP and developments of ETP products for Bitcoin and Ethereum, and on both the commercial and technical side, the development and growth of the DeFi services and the development of Ethereum 2.0.

Phillip Sandner, Head of Frankfurt School Blockchain Center

Blockchain means "crypto assets" on the one hand and "DLT" on the other — i.e., applications from the pure corporate context. In the area of "crypto assets," one can see how Bitcoin and Ethereum, in particular, have developed very positively on the basis of various metrics — but not in terms of price. In "DLT," one can see that one after the other, companies are now getting enthusiastic about blockchain technology. Industrial companies, banks, etc. — with some delay even the middle class.

Robert Schwertner, Influencer

The situation of the crypto industry in 2019: The air is out! The Party Is Over. The magical attraction of cryptocurrencies is finally lost in 2019. In previous years, blockchain start-ups issued their own cryptocurrencies and collected fabulous sums from many stupid people, some of whom call themselves investors. Driven by greed and hope for quick wealth, blockchain companies threw money down their throats. However, they forgot the most important economic rule: Every good business needs a coherent business model. That was missing from 99% of the blockchain companies. By 2019, disillusionment was spreading and investors were getting smarter. The process was painful but definitely beneficial. What we are seeing now are great new projects of high quality.

Probably the most important hit in 2019 was Mark Zuckerberg's cryptocurrency project Libra, and it did so several times: The foundation was established in Switzerland. Mastercard, Visa, Paypal board as partners. Central banks castigate Libra as a "danger to the financial system." Politicians denounce Facebook as a data killer. In October, the bomb exploded: Visa, Mastercard and Paypal got cold feet, they leave the project. Libra's merit is certainly that now finally western central banks are waking up and thinking about their own digital currency projects. And this is absolutely necessary for the survival of the western market economy because there is already a lot of activity in the East: I was impressed by the targeted use of blockchain technology by China. The Chinese are not just talking and complaining. They are implementing: The Chinese government is already testing a digital yuan/renminbi with over 500,000 companies in the two industrial cities of Shenzhen and Suzhou from 2020. The aim is to simplify the sending of invoices, make immediate payments, and also improve the payment of salaries and social security. The tax system will be considerably simplified. If the USA and Europe do not quickly promote innovation and create improved framework conditions, we will lose this competition and will have to implement Chinese standards later.

Lex Sokolin, Co-head of global fintech at ConsenSys

2019 has been a year of progress for blockchain, cryptocurrencies and digital assets. There has been significant advancement led by both decentralized communities and centralized institutions.

First, decentralized finance is beginning to take root globally. DeFi protocols now enable savings and lending, exchange and trading, and synthetic structured products. We count over 200 stablecoin projects, most of which run on Ethereum. Over $500 million is currently locked in DeFi, powering a variety of capital markets applications.

More traditional assets from real estate to art, securities to bonds, are now transacted using tokenized financial instruments over public and private open-source blockchains. The market share for DeFi has only just begun.

Institutions, whether enterprise or even government bodies, have clearly signaled their interest. Early in the year, JPMorgan announced their JPM Coin for better interbank settlement. This was followed by Facebook’s announcement of Libra, which accelerated developments from the Chinese and U.S. governments.

ConsenSys released Codefi (Commerce and Decentralized Finance) in September this year as the first full product suite of fintech tools to help companies and organizations with their blockchain and digitalization journey. For instance, we helped Mata Capital tokenize a single real estate fund asset, backed by ownership of a building in Paris, for an investment sum of 26 million euros.

Ulli Spankowski, Chief digital officer at Boerse Stuttgart

In my view, the crypto and digital asset industry 2019 developed very positively. We welcome the progressive acceptance on the retail and institutional side, as well as regulatory further development of the crypto industry. The blockchain strategy of German Federal government, the announcement of Libra and the creation of the first regulated trading center for digital assets in Germany with the Boerse Stuttgart Digital Exchange are just a few highlights that point to one positive development of this exciting future technology around blockchain and DLT. However, the aspect of security in the custody of cryptocurrencies has made unfortunately negative headlines in 2019 again and will continue to occupy the industry in the future. But I see here a professionalization of the crypto industry — with emerging insurance solutions and new security concepts.

Alexandra Tinsman, NEM Foundation President

In 2019, the crypto community bore witness to the rise of stablecoins — a necessary development for the industry that indicated a movement toward KYC and regulation of exchanges, an essential requirement for mainstream adoption among traditional investors. I was also happy to see the progress in blockchain-based securities trading, from both a tech and regulatory perspective. The stage is being set for a popular blockchain use case, and I’m excited that NEM Catapult has some special tech advantages here.

John Todaro, Director of TradeBlock

2019 was very much characterized by U.S. political involvement in digital currencies. For the first time, President Trump tweeted about Bitcoin, Secretary Mnuchin held a conference discussing digital currencies, and there were various well-attended hearings in Washington around the space. While we had seen U.S. regulators become involved in the space in previous years, this was the first year that we saw an extensive involvement from politicians and lawmakers, including a sitting U.S. president. Some of the biggest milestones we saw this year was proof-of-stake networks coming online, with a rise in staking of tokens to capture an annual yield on invested assets, progress in the Lightning Network, growth of decentralized financial services as evident by the number of loans originated/and Ether locked across these platforms, as well as the launch of Bakkt's product offerings and others to allow for greater institutional involvement in the space. Some of the bigger setbacks of 2019 was the response of some U.S. lawmakers around Libra as they push to delay or stop the project, China's recent harsher stance on digital currency trading, and the exit of exchanges from U.S. markets, including Poloniex and Binance. 

Erik Voorhees, CEO of Shapeshift

2019 was pretty clearly a year of consolidation after the bear-market misery year of 2018. The biggest event of the year has to be the formal announcement of Facebook’s Libra, due to the shockwaves it sent across the world. If governments and banks weren’t paying attention to this technology before, they sure as hell are now. Amazingly, Libra has taken much of the antagonism away from Bitcoin.

Beyond Libra, the big story is the DeFi phenomenon: stablecoins and interest-bearing accounts that are significantly decentralized. In a world of increasingly negative interest rates, DeFi is a bright spot, bringing borrowers and lenders together, regardless of their jurisdiction, and without the involvement of any bank or government. DeFi is still early and full of risks, but it is a beautiful thing to watch.

Whale Alert

In 2019, we again saw some very high volatility with Bitcoin prices ranging between $3K and $13K. While this made for some notable headlines and great trading opportunities, price swings like these have a chilling effect on adoption and I hope to see more stability in 2020.

A big setback for crypto in general were the many successful hacks attacks aimed at exchanges. It was disappointing to see that at least in a few cases the impact of these hacks could have been lessened or even prevented by adoption of better security models. However, what was really important was that some of these hacked parties, like Binance, managed to absorb the losses and continued to operate normally. No one will ever be completely immune to hacks, but demonstrating that being hacked won't necessarily impact customer funds was a huge win for crypto.

All things considered, I think that 2019 was a great year that brought us an increase in adoption with more people using cryptocurrencies and more companies offering payment options through crypto, but also some great applications from the fintech industry, like the first bond settlement on blockchain.

Sebastian Borget, Co-founder and chief operations officer at The Sandbox

The growth of DeFi and Blockchain Gaming have made the biggest impression on me. I think 2019 has been a very good year overall for the industry to focus on building products, communities and adoptions and find an actual market for their products. The quality of projects overall has risen, which we are very happy to see.

Benedikt Bünz, Co-founder of Findora

I think there is a lot of development happening under the hood and a lot of exciting technological progress has happened. Additionally, big actors like Facebook and the Chinese government have announced that they are very interested in the place and are building new projects. This is very exciting, as it shows that the place is getting more and more professional. Unfortunately in terms of adoption, this year wasn’t the breakthrough that people had hoped for. We still need to improve usability such that more and more people can effectively use cryptocurrencies

David Chaum, Founder of Elixxir

The biggest development in 2019 is the growing public awareness of the vital role that privacy plays in our digital lives, and how poorly the big consumer networks preserve and protect our privacy. This public focus on privacy is a tremendous opportunity for the blockchain community to appeal to these users, provided that we can offer solutions that satisfy their needs.

Also, Google announced a breakthrough in the development of quantum computing, which raises the bar for cryptographic protocols that have been used for blockchains and cryptocurrencies. There is now a real challenge to the community to deliver quantum secure decentralized platforms and currencies to avoid control of these platforms by private and government entities with quantum computing capabilities.

Adam Ficsor, CEO of Wasabi Wallet

I believe the raise and stabilization work on the Lightning Network and Wasabi wallet are the most important milestones, where the first is advancing Bitcoin's portability and fungibility, while the latter is advancing its fungibility. Also note, I may be slightly biased on the latter:)

Joshua Frank, CEO of The TIE

2019 was a mixed bag for digital assets. On the one hand, we have seen tremendous technological developments in terms of infrastructure for traditional institutions looking to trade digital assets. We have seen improvements in custody, execution, data and more. However, 2019 can be characterized by a sharp decline in retail interest and disappointing institutional involvement. 

The biggest milestones were the launch of Bakkt and Fidelity Digital Assets. The biggest setback has been regulatory uncertainty in the United States. While China’s anti-crypto stance was a net-negative for the industry, it was not surprising.

I have been very impressed by a few developments within the space. The first is Bitwise Asset Management’s focus on attracting registered investment advisors and family offices to allocate to digital assets. I am also excited about the developments being made that enable institutional investors to trade out of cold storage.

Mati Greenspan, Founder of Quantum Economics

Overall, 2019 was a very positive year for Bitcoin and crypto. The biggest milestone by far was the announcement from Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would like to see China embracing blockchain technology. This is clearly a watershed moment for this growing industry.

John Jefferies, CFA at CipherTrace

2019 was the year that the crypto industry was told to grow up by regulators around the world. Travel Rule enforcement is simultaneously the biggest milestone and the biggest setback for crypto. It has and will continue to force a level of maturity that will enable the industry to grow into an institutionally accepted asset class that is adopted by the masses for payments. It also presents an existential threat for many exchanges and poses potential privacy issues for users. The Travel Rule compliance operations will be costly even with open-source software like Trisa.

Tal Kol, Co-founder of Orbs

The big surprise of 2019 was the dominance of enterprise blockchain solutions. While many 2017–2018 startups took a beating this year, there was a steady interest in blockchain technology from the enterprise sector, which has traditionally led much of the experimentation of emerging technologies due to its vast resources and reach. The biggest development, however, is the growing realization by corporations that the real value driving innovation is in public, permissionless blockchain and not in private DLTS. Whether its EY developing exclusively on Ethereum mainnet or the many post-private POCs looking for a public implementation for their use-case, I believe these milestones will make 2019, seen in retrospect, as the year where existing businesses built the foundation for mass adoption of blockchain technology.

Evan Luthra, Serial tech entrepreneur, founder of and

2019 was full of significant events for the crypto industry: the launch of institutional giants Bakkt and Fidelity Digital Assets, the boom of STO, IEO and DeFi, the next, albeit not prolonged, Bitcoin rally. However, there were unpleasant moments. Numerous scams and the closure of a large number of exchanges. For example, in India, under the pressure of regulators and the refusal of banking services, Koinex, the country's largest Bitcoin exchange, has closed. This was preceded by the liquidation of the Coindelta trading platform for the same reasons.

I was impressed by the prospects of a brand-new trend — staking. And I think that 2020 will show that the possibilities of cryptocurrency are much greater than it is considered. And digital money, which allows you to receive passive income, can become #1 in the blockchain industry very soon.

Diogo Monica, Co-founder and president of Anchorage

2019 was a year of infrastructure-building — from new custodial technologies and decentralized protocols to innovative payments capabilities, like Lightning Network, engineers have been working hard to develop the necessary plumbing for the emerging digital asset financial system. 2019 was also a year of mainstream validation with Facebook, JPMorgan, Fidelity, Telegram and other corporations piloting or actively building blockchain projects. Institutional involvement heralds a bright future for the entire crypto sector, and we expect to see more institutions entering the space in 2020.

Kim Nilsson, Blockchain researcher at WizSec

We're wrapping up one more year that Bitcoin's been around, despite continuing predictions of its imminent demise. The post-2017 bear market still drags on, but I'm not thinking about price too much; right now, Bitcoin only needs to be valued high enough to pay for its own security while the next generation of improvements, like Lightning Network, are being developed. It's been a rough year for altcoins though, whose value seems to be much more speculative.

If anything, the fact that Bitcoin is enduring such setbacks rather than collapsing seems to have further raised mainstream awareness that it's here to stay and not just a bubble. There's been increasing attention and recognition from politicians and other public figures, and mega-companies, like Facebook, are starting to make plays for this new market.

Zac Prince, CEO of BlockFi

Crypto had a great year in 2019 and accomplished a key objective or rebounding from the lows after the big drawdown coming from the rapid rise at the end of 2017. The annual performance of Bitcoin in 2019 will likely be better than most other assets, which is very positive for the sector.

Key milestones included the launch of Bakkt, Fidelity’s custody platform, growing adoption/accessibility from traditional fintech companies, like Square, Robinhood and SoFi, and an infrastructure development across lending and prime brokerage type services.

Danny Scott, CEO of CoinCorner

I feel that 2019 reflects the "Slope of Enlightenment" phase of the Hype Cycle. With the price of Bitcoin up more than 100% since the beginning of the year, we've seen confidence in the market begin to return with what I believe could be our new bottom. People are becoming more savvy to altcoins and their lack of use, as we've seen all of the top 10 altcoins lose significant value against Bitcoin (except for BNB, which is likely to be as a result of Binance's heavy push on their coin this year).

My attention has been focused on the Lightning Network developments this year, seeing its first major bug handled extremely diligently. Nodes have doubled over the year to almost 5,000, as well as exchanges beginning to integrate it into their offerings.

We're also seeing what I can only describe as our first "Layer 3" developments, with the proof of concept "Whatsat," which is developed to be a decentralized version of WhatsApp built on top of Bitcoin's Lightning Network (Bitcoin Layer 1, Lightning Network Layer 2, Whatsat Layer 3).

Alexander Zaidelson, CEO of Beam

I think the year of 2019 was a year of big hopes for wider adoption and some disappointments. The Libra debacle was one of the big events that, in my view, influenced the market quite a bit. While the reaction of the hardcore crypto community to Libra was mostly negative (Libra is not really a cryptocurrency), there was hope that bringing 1B people to blockchain-based currency will increase awareness and adoption. But this did not work out.

So, in my mind, the biggest milestone is that crypto made inroads into the mainstream media and awareness, and the setback is that this did not lead to wide adoption (yet).

2019 was also a big year for privacy. Mimblewimble-based Beam and Grin made a bold entry in the beginning of the year and have now become important players in the ecosystem. The success of Mimblewimble protocol spurred interest from leading projects in the space, such as Monero/Tari, Litecoin and others. There was also a lot of privacy-related research — Halo by Zcash, Ben Fisch’ work on Trustless SNARKs, Lelantus protocol developed by Zcoin and adapted by Beam as Lelantus-MW, Aztec and Zether privacy protocols for Ethereum and more. Privacy is becoming a topic of the debate, and the need for privacy is being realized by the community.