While traditional and institutional investors are intrigued by the burgeoning crypto-economy, it's clear that many are apprehensive to jump in because of the volatility and uncertainty surrounding it. If the goal is to make cryptocurrencies into a new normal, what, then, would make them as commonly used as dollars, euros and yen for everyday folks?
Over the last decade, a strong U.S. dollar has emboldened many American investors to look for cheaper assets --including equities and currencies -- outside of the United States. But the more recent weakness in the U.S. dollar has emboldened a chorus of cryptocurrency investors who see any weakness in fiat currencies as the canary in the mine that foretells incremental substitution by inherently inflation-protected cryptocurrencies.
Closer on the horizon is the increasingly-held view that cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, are a "safe haven" asset class that competes with gold and other precious metals.
Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, Dash -- there clearly are many cryptocurrency options, all of which may look the same to the untrained eye. A growing list of coins isn't going to make the average person's decision to invest any easier. And common among tradable instruments in any growing sector, correlation in price movement among cryptocurrencies remains high, even where it is unwarranted.
Cryptocurrencies are no exception, suggesting that some investment in certain coins is indiscriminate. The ever-expanding list of alt-coins makes us wonder how this will become a normal part of life any time soon.
Adoption, under the assumption that cryptocurrencies are one, secular group, is accelerating. A study of 2,000 Britons by the London Block Exchange claims that 5% of those studied under the age of 35 already have invested in a cryptocurrency, while 11% say they will" definitely" invest in 2018 and 17% say they are "seriously considering" it. Investing, however, differs from actual use. Practically all cryptocurrencies sit in cryptocurrency wallets but we do expect that to change, albeit slowly.
How, then, do we integrate the "old economy" with cryptocurrencies?
Although outsiders might see the cryptocurrency world as a unified front, the reality is that on the inside, there are competing philosophies and ideologies at play all the time. Not all crypto companies think the same way, and some have different visions and beliefs than others. And with the rise of the Ethereum platform, many say that the real value is within blockchain technology -- and how it can be applied to existing systems -- rather than using it to create new worlds altogether. The average person may indeed prefer door number one here.
Take, for example, Jibrel Network. Rather than upending the traditional economy altogether with an ever-expanding array of alternative currencies, Jibrel wants to tokenize the traditional financial assets we already use, such as money markets, cash, commodities, equities and futures. Interestingly, Jibrel believes that putting our existing financial industry onto blockchain technology is the answer, as opposed to replacing that system altogether.
Jibrel's view is that with this approach, we can usher in an era of smart regulation for the financial industry that we already use, but also put our trust in code rather than in institutions. It is not a stretch to say that this is one way in which crypto could go mainstream. Jibrel Network is the first decentralized protocol for storing and transacting traditional financial assets on the Ethereum blockchain. No doubt, this may disappoint true believer, crypto die-hards who wish to see a new world system rise from the ashes entirely.
Today, it remains difficult for an investor to participate in the new crypto-economy confidently. Essentially, Jibrel Network aims to translate the real-world rules that regulate our traditional financial assets into unchangeable code, and put them on to smart contracts via blockchain.
"We provide decentralized, asset-backed tokens representing real-world traditional financial assets," said Jibrel Network co-founder Talal Tabbaa. "Quite simply, regulation is embedded into these smart tokens, ensuring that real-world rules and regulations are always followed."
In short, the company's vision is to bring the efficiency of blockchain to our existing financial industry, rather than trying to eliminate it. In Jibrel's world, what would begin to make cryptocurrency as commonly used as regular currencies is to help everyday people blockchain-ify the cash, money markets, equities, commodities and/or futures that they have already invested in.
Jibrel's mission is to integrate with banks, not replace them. This philosophy has not gone unnoticed. "It's delivering value for both sides, creating better access to stable financial assets and the high returns of the crypto-economy," said Tapscott Group CEO Don Tapscott. "Instead of listed/public equities such as stocks, Jibrel Network helps institutional-grade liquidity flow into the crypto-economy."
Ever heard of EOS, NEO, Stellar, Monero, Populous or Qtum? Few have, especially as mainstream media has focused on just a handful of cryptocurrency names. Yet, these are all on the top twenty list of cryptocurrencies trading right now.
There are hundreds, even thousands, of cryptocurrencies on the market today. Will future generations transact with each other in this way? Well, if the future looks anything like the trailer for Ready Player One, then maybe. On the other hand, though, the underlying, decentralized blockchain technology simply could be applied to the system of dollars, euros, pounds, yen and Swiss francs we now have in place.
This story has been corrected to account for Don Tapscott's professional affiliation.
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I hold stock in investment holding company, Leucadia, and remain a partner in an emerging technology fund. I hold no positions in cryptocurrencies or in any companies that invest in them.