In his monthly crypto tech column, Israeli serial entrepreneur Ariel Shapira covers emerging technologies within the crypto, decentralized finance (DeFi) and blockchain space, as well as their roles in shaping the economy of the 21st century.
The crypto market, just as any other market, runs in cycles. Even though digital assets are known, if not infamous, for being more volatile than many other asset types, their price action still follows a familiar pattern of ups and downs. Some of this, such as Bitcoin’s (BTC) four-year cycle, largely comes down to the algorithm’s intrinsic rules — more specifically, the halving of miners’ rewards. Off-chain factors, such as the U.S. tax-reporting rules, can also come into play.
Still, while the market’s logic dictates change, the logic itself remains largely unchanging. In other words, in the same way a bull run eventually runs out of steam and hits a plateau, bears eventually lose grasp of the market as well, giving way to another upshoot.
For now, of course, the market is still recovering from Terra’s crash and many other pressures that there has been no shortage of in the past few years. As fragile as its rebound attempts may be, and as red as every coin is compared to just a few months ago, the global crypto scene is hunkering down and powering on in wait for another bull run. So, where could it come from?
Just a few years ago, the very idea that Bitcoin could be legal tender in any given nation seemed like a far-fetched delusion. And yet, after El Salvador’s daring Bitcoin gambit, the Central African Republic (CAR) joined the fray in late April, granting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies the status of legal tender.
These two countries make for an interesting comparison. It’s by now common knowledge in the crypto space that remittances from abroad make up a major portion of El Salvador’s budget, and this fact was seen as the economic rationale behind the experiment. While reports suggest the process is shaky, the nation’s government does shop for Bitcoin, embracing the “buy the dip” stratagem.
With the CAR, things could not have been more different. The economy of the war-ravaged nation has been ailing for quite some time. Furthermore, only about 10% of the country’s population has internet access, according to World Bank data. In other words, the use of crypto will likely be restricted to a small portion of the population — and, given the geopolitical and local context of the move, the prospects can indeed be quite murky.
Still, more emerging economies may choose to follow suit, especially given that El Salvador is not the only nation leaning a lot on remittance transfers for budget cash. Even the fact that there is precedent for that is big enough to get the momentum going, and should even one more nation join the club this year, the crypto markets will know it.
Blockchain for institutions
While the early crypto rallies primarily came from private retail investors and traders, institutional investors have been joining the fray as well in recent years. From top banks and hedge funds delving into the crypto space to fintech giants adding support for digital assets to their platforms, institutional adoption is no longer a pipe dream — it’s reality.
Even the inside-baseball use cases, such as JPMorgan experimenting with its private blockchain meant for interbank use or a group of top information and communication technology providers tapping ClearX’s blockchain solution for data-on-demand services, matter. They add extra credibility to the technology powering the crypto ecosystem, which adds to long-term investor confidence.
Even though quite a few enterprise-grade blockchain projects will likely stay on private blockchains, the growing investor confidence in the technology is likely to further normalize crypto in the public eye and draw more eyes to the public blockchain space. Furthermore, such projects make for a whole niche market of solutions that will help companies build their private chains. Another niche may be in bridging these private chains with the public space. Crypto is, after all, all about connectivity and inclusion, so such aspirations only make sense.
The first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the U.S. took off in late 2021, and the amount of interest it drew from investors is another testimony to just how much appetite the market has for crypto exposure. We have come to the point where some financial advisors are recommending that everyone, regardless of their age and risk preferences, should have at least some exposure to crypto.
Thanks to a change in sentiment like that, more and more asset managers will be looking into the crypto space, whether it’s on a client’s request or on their own inclination. By the same token, more and more high earners will be joining the ranks of crypto investors, bringing more value into the blockchain economy.
With all due respect to ETFs and other traditional assets, any crypto-savvy user will tell you that actual crypto is better than a traditional asset mimicking its movements. The reason for that is that crypto is far more dynamic. Your Ethereum-pegged ETFs (if those pop up some day) will only sit with your broker. With the actual coins, on the other hand, you can stake, use yield farms, and tap various other DeFi services for more passive income.
In this respect, it will be interesting to watch and see if traditional asset managers soon start losing ground to crypto-native alternatives such as EQIFi, backed by EQIBank. One of the platform’s key services is its yield aggregator, which effectively acts as an asset manager by allocating the user’s funds into various DeFi protocols to guarantee maximum returns. Such services make crypto more lucrative as an asset class that can work for its owner 24/7 through platforms that are always accessible and take just a few clicks to manage.
Games and gamers
Blockchain games are not exactly something new, as anyone who remembers the CryptoKitties craze can attest to. Still, when Axie Infinity began making headlines as people in the Philippines turned to it in search of an income amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the play-to-earn industry stepped proudly into the limelight.
Now, it’s hard not to wonder if some of this pride may have been misplaced, given the plights that Axie Infinity, the industry’s standard-bearer, is now facing. The game has long had an inflation problem as its underlying business model began to give way. Adding to this issue was the recent hack, one of the worst ones on record in the DeFi space.
Axie Infinity’s pains could be just another case of a nascent industry figuring out its own best practices. A whole host of new projects is now gearing up to move this space further, aspiring to bring it to AAA-level polish in terms of visuals and gameplay. Once these new juggernauts enter the arena, we will likely see more gamers begin to explore crypto.
It may be tempting to write blockchain gaming off as just another subset of the retail market, but there's more to it in the long run. The video game industry is an undisputed powerhouse in the entertainment world, and wherever it goes, its adherents will follow. From esports to in-game ads, the traditional gaming industry has already given birth to a wide array of satellite markets, and all of those make for new use cases, new audiences and new business opportunities.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.