Ethereum: Building A Lead In The Marathon

A lot of what is written these days on cryptocurrencies fits into one of three categories. The first is a description of the latest price moves up and down.  We all know how much drama there is and that makes good headlines.  

Let’s call the second category the SegWit syndrome where we receive a description of the latest breakthrough in blockchain technology written from a developer viewpoint: hard to read and nearly impossible to understand.

In the third category is all of the other highly qualified writers and journalists that I have not already insulted.  Apologies to all.

For more than 30 years as a Wall Street analyst, hedge fund manager and Director of Research, my approach is to access things from an analytical perspective.  Technology is constantly changing the world but the things that make for long term business success pretty much stay the same.  That is why our bias tends to favor the crypto giants Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Focus On Ethereum

By now it is probably no longer necessary to describe Ethereum’s open source blockchain platform that features self executing smart contracts.  Everybody knows that by now, right?

As a business person and investor, I am drawn to the leadership already created by Ethereum founders.  Say what you will about Initial Coin Offerings, but Ethereum accounts for over 80% of that market.  But that is just surface stuff because if ICO were to stop overnight, the demand for Ether would not end.

One of the forces behind this prediction is the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance which is now just over a year old.  Membership totals somewhere near 300 companies from JP Morgan and MicroSoft down to much more modest enterprises.  The mission of EEA is to bring together Fortune 500 companies with blockchain experts.  This is a great selling tool for Ethereum and as the list grows, so does their competitive strength.

Capital And Competition

To be successful, it is critical to always keep an eye out for what is going on around your business.  It is a well turned phrase that if a business doesn’t disrupt itself, someone else will. That takes capital. These days capital is flowing into crypto in many different ways.

The Weird Journey of Algorand

Venture Capital are dying to find a way of tapping into the cryptocurrency wave.  As we pointed out in a recent article, VC’s have been wounded by things like crowdfunding and ICOs and looking for about any action.  That is when I came across MIT’s Algorand blockchain project.  It raised $4 million in seed money from two VC’s.  Now $4 million is chump change but still it made me ask, what were they thinking?

Here is how CoinDesk described the project.  Algorand constitutes a digital currency and transaction platform.  It represents the latest effort to build a wholly new blockchain aimed at tackling some of the perceived governance issues associated with distributed systems.

The Professor Speaks

The head of the Algorand is MIT professor,  Silvio Micali. In addition to spending 30 years in cryptography he is also a Turing Award winner.  So obviously he is no slouch.  But apparently all these years in academia has depleted his appreciation for Econ 101 which states that everyone behaves in a way to optimize profits.  Professor Micali and the Algorand platform appears to be forgetting the value incentives for crypto mining.

At a recent conference Macali explained his attitude and the Algorand approach in this way. “We must use incentives as a last resort.” “ When you put incentives out there, people learn how to use those incentives for making money in ways that are nearly impossible to predict.”  Wow, that sounds a lot like creative capitalism.

Crypto Socialism

Micali believes that miners who have invested lots of dough in expensive equipment are dealing in trivial computations and do not need to be rewarded.  Instead the Algorand platform uses “validators” who in return for doing trivial computations will not have to invest in expensive equipment.  

Coindesk describes Algorand as the latest effort to build a wholly new blockchain system. The best guess on a release date is sometime in the next year. Taking that statement at face value out of respect for the author, at this time,  investors in Ethereum have little to be worried about from competition.  In the meantime Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin is working on something call a DAICO.  It is intended as an improvement on the current Ethereum ICO process.  As we suggested earlier, when a tech company disrupts itself, it reduces the chances of being overtaken by others.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Author:
James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.