The world can’t seem to define crypto, and that is a problem. Not that there aren’t a million different explanations floating around the internet distinguishing money system coins from utility tokens from security tokens, there are. The big problem arises from how all these different crypto entities are being treated by nearly everyone in the space, longtime hodler and newcomer alike. No matter the function, all crypto is being handled in the same, investment-minded manner, and it is holding the technology back.
Cryptocurrencies were originally a fringe technology. Your tech-savvy friend might have owned some Bitcoin early on, but they also might have owned a large collection of comic books or action figures, which didn’t scream to the rest of the world “this person is really onto something.” Crypto existed more conceptually than as an actual system to transact in. Who can forget the famous 10,000 Bitcoin for a pizza story? At the time, crypto was simply an experiment in peer-to-peer transaction.
As this fringe community began to grow, so did cryptocurrencies’ value, both in price and public understanding. Like in nearly all modern money systems, the value of a cryptocurrency is derived from a mutual understanding that it functions as a store of value. Borderless, peer-to-peer transfer sweetened the deal, offering something more efficient than fiat currencies. Momentum began to build … then crypto “mooned.”
Even the most ardent crypto enthusiasts could not have predicted the mainstream blow-up in 2017 (even though they might claim otherwise). Overnight, everyone and their grandmother was suddenly caught up in crypto mania. Wild speculation sent prices through the roof. A mad scramble took place to swipe up as much crypto as possible before the prices soared into the stratosphere forever.
Fortunes plopped on to unsuspecting crypto owners’ laps overnight, but this unexpected blessing has also become crypto’s biggest curse. The rapid rise of crypto, especially cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, fundamentally changed the way the systems were meant to operate, scrapping usable transaction functions by forcing them to behave as investments. The wave of FOMO also wildly miseducated the public on what crypto entities could be, forcing nearly all cryptographic tokens, no matter their function, into the same “this is an investment” bag.
Crypto’s success is holding the entire industry hostage.
As mainstream interest drove prices up, early adopters found their meager holdings turn into teetering piles of virtual gold, like an entire community winning the lottery simultaneously. The rest of the world watched in awe and hoped to do the same, buying crypto and crossing their fingers, driving prices higher and higher.
The early adopters, the ones that were buying pizzas with 10,000 Bitcoins less than a decade ago, were now caught between a rock and a hard place. Why would you spend your cryptocurrency holdings if its value would continue to skyrocket?
This perception stripped Bitcoin of its original function: a better way to transact.
You can blame newcomers’ speculative ventures for driving up prices and thus undermining the transactional utility of cryptocurrencies. But their real (and unavoidable) sin was naively buying into anything and everything blockchain-related, blowing the crypto bubble bigger and bigger until it popped.
The crypto community shares a good portion of the blame, too, for selling anything blockchain-related (working or not, investment or utility token, etc.) to the newcomers in an effort to make a quick buck. It didn’t take a PhD in economics to realize the market behavior was unsustainable by early 2018, but if you didn’t “get in while the getting was good,” then someone else would, leaving all participants in a catch-22.
As the market cooled and prices declined, participants were forced to make a decision: cash out or hunker down and wait for peak value to return. Either way, using crypto to transact was not an option.
“Hodl” cries within the crypto community rang from rooftops to Reddit forums. The boom gave early crypto enthusiasts a taste of the forbidden fruit. But these same people weren’t hodling 10 years ago. They were pioneering a new way to transact.
The cryptocurrency boom essentially kneecapped digital coins. A new way to transact became a new way to get rich. Cash essentially turned into stocks.
Right now, the road forward is unclear. If you hold crypto, no matter your personal philosophy, the market dictates that you treat it like an investment, not cash. Unfortunately, what is learned first is learned best, and the world’s introduction to crypto may have doomed daily transaction functions for almost all current cryptocurrencies. But there is a silver lining.
If the world wants to treat crypto like a security, why not let it? While it is nonsensical to treat currencies (like Bitcoin) or utility tokens (like Ether) as securities, rolling out tokens designed explicitly as securities presents a way to use the revolutionary technology that powers cryptographic tokens.
Security Token Offerings (STOs) could offer an asset class for the digital age, backed by the value of the underlying company and allow token owners to take advantage of traditional benefits like profit-sharing and voting rights as well as new perks, like discounts and rewards for owning tokens and engaging with the company in other ways, like ordering its goods, or using its services.
Hopefully we will one day see stable crypto transactions, but right now, public perception of all crypto assets, regardless of intended function, is too set in stone to make that transition. Security tokens aren’t the answer to crypto’s daily transaction paralysis, but they will give the world a concrete reason to purchase tokens and hodl on.
Once security tokens are firmly established, maybe we’ll be able to loosen our hold on our other crypto assets and buy some pizza with Bitcoin again …
Dima Zaitsev is international is chief of business analytics and PR lead at ICOBox. Dima has a PhD in Economics.