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Gold Rush 2.0: Who’s Selling Shovels to the Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Pioneers?

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There’s an old saying that goes something like: “During a gold rush, sell shovels.”

At the height of the California gold rush, the most profitable venture (on average) was not mining for gold itself, but selling the tools that facilitated the mining of gold.

The legacy of this fact is still present even today – your Levi jeans are a product of Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss, whose business boomed when he began manufacturing tough, durable trousers specifically for gold miners.

While adventurers took to the hills in search of their fortunes, the more conservative personalities found a way to make money from the process before a pick-axe even struck the soil.

So who are the ‘shovel sellers’ in the cryptocurrency space?

Exchanges

By the second quarter of 2018, Binance had already become more profitable than Germany’s Deutsche Bank. That was less than a year after launch, and the exchange’s meteoric rise was such that the likes of Forbes and Business Insider began writing about the likelihood of $1 billion yearly profits being recorded by CZ and the gang in 2018

By the end of the year those profits ended up being closer to half a billion, and Binance’s BNB utility token was the only major altcoin to increase in value from 2018 to 2019.

Although exchanges aren’t in the business of selling physical tools essential to cryptocurrency mining or usage, they do occupy a gatekeeper role similar to local goldsmiths in the old west. Yes, gold miners could just keep their bounty to themselves and use it (with some difficulty) as its own self-contained currency. But if they wanted to exchange it for an equivalent value of fiat currency, then they’d have to go through a confirmation and notarization process – one which would require some form of KYC, and would ultimately demand a percentage fee.

With the presence of authority-less services like Local Bitcoin, and a recent increase in the number of decentralized exchanges, it may seem surprising that one of the most profitable gigs in the cryptocurrency space happens to be that of a centralized exchange.

However, this phenomena makes a little more sense when viewed through the lens of human nature: Read: 5 Things Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Investors Should Beware of in 2019.

Mining Tools

Perhaps the most obvious example of ‘selling shovels’ to the crypto space comes from the mining hardware industry.

Bitmain Technologies Ltd has already earned its co-founder and CEO, Micree Zhan, an estimated $4 billion in profit – all from selling mining equipment to would-be cryptocurrency prospectors.

Towards the end of last year Bitmain announced its intention to undergo an initial public offering (IPO) – predicted to be worth an estimated $18 billion if it goes ahead. There are some obstacles to overcome before that can happen, such as gaining the approval of Hong Kong’s financial regulators.

But with that kind of money flying around, there’s a good chance Bitmain could become the modern day Levi. Even if crypto mining fades out due to concepts like Proof-of-Stake, we’d most likely see Bitmain continue to sell shovels of some kind, even if it were just general computing technology.

Bitmain’s estimated worth if the IPO goes ahead will eclipse the market capitalizations of Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), EOS (EOS) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) combined – possibly the best example of ‘selling shovels’ since the gold rush itself?

Storage

Cryptocurrency can be stored safely on its native blockchain without too much trouble. However, if you want to gain access to your funds in order to spend it, divide it, or move it from place to place, then you’re going to need a wallet service of some kind.

Many free software wallets exist for this purpose, however not all of them can be trusted. The most secure way to store cryptocurrency is with a hardware wallet.

The popularity of the secure storage service offered by Trezor is such that it had become a multi-million dollar industry by as early as 2017. That’s the same year the company had to issue an apology to its customers after it ran out of stock due to high demand, when a spike in the value of BTC saw a sudden influx of Trezor orders:

“With much regret, Satoshi Labs would like to inform you that due to the exceedingly high and unanticipated demand associated with the increase in bitcoin value, our stock at TREZOR Shop has been depleted. We would like to sincerely apologize for this inadequate foresight related to the development of bitcoin value. Production plans have been fixed and this situation should not occur in the future again.”

Ledger hardware wallets have proven just as popular in recent years, or even more so considering their compatibility with a higher number of cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile numerous would-be usurpers to the Ledger/Trezor dominance have also attempted to make their presence felt, with varying degrees of success.

Conclusion

In terms of pure profit, wouldn’t it be accurate to say that the people involved in the peripheral industries surrounding cryptocurrency have found more success than those involved in the main industry itself?

This also raises the question of just what the main industry is – is it mining? Is it trading? Is it purely the pursuit of profit? Or does all of this amount to no more than the setting of foundations for the true crypto use-case – i.e. it’s role as a global transactional currency?

Note that I didn’t mention the phenomena of ‘blockchain influencers’ and self-professed ‘experts’ – another booming industry that seeks to siphon off value from the main expedition; and one that also had its equivalency during the gold rush era.

When the global cryptocurrency market struck its all-time high on January 7th, 2018, its $835 billion valuation was worth 11% of the total value of all the gold ever mined (according to current gold prices).

If the value of cryptocurrencies continue to increase as the global supply available from mining continues to decrease (as predicted), then the gold rush isn’t anywhere close to being over – and it may be worth figuring out how to sell a few shovels of your own.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 144 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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Return of the Bitcoin Maximalist? Crypto Winter Luring Even More Institutional Capital than Before

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Bitcoin’s price crept higher on Saturday, as the leading digital currency found renewed support near $3,600 following a week of mostly tepid moves. Although the bear market is showing little signs of letting up, Grayscale has declared the return of the ‘bitcoin maximalist’ following a dramatic surge in investments during the fourth quarter. Could this mean that the worst of the downturn has passed?

Return of the Bitcoin Maximalist

Grayscale, the cryptocurrency asset manager most famous for the GBTC Bitcoin Trust, saw an influx of investment capital during the fourth quarter of 2018 – a period known simply as ‘crypto winter’ or ‘crypto nuclear winter,’ depending on who you ask. During the quarter, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust brought in an average of $2 million per week, the company said in its most recent quarterly report. The number dwarfs the average weekly investment for all other cryptoassets, which stood at just $300,000.

The sheer dominance of bitcoin relative to its altcoin peers led Grayscale to declare the “return of the bitcoin maximalist.” Bitcoin attracted “the most capital within the Grayscale family of products despite further price declines in the digital asset market,” the manager said. “In the fourth quarter, 88% of inflows were into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, while 12% were into products tied to other digital assets.”

Total investment into Grayscale products reached $359.5 million in all of 2018. The average weekly investment for all products stood at $6.9 million, with the Bitcoin Trust attracting $4.7 million of that total.

Profound Shift Underway?

The shift from retail to institutional investor was also highlighted in the quarterly report. Two-thirds (66%) of the total funds invested during the year came from the institutional investor class. A deeper dive into the investor profiles reveled that 40% of the total amount invested in the fourth quarter came from retirement accounts.

These data points – the rise of the institutional investor and the influx of retirement savers into the digital currency space – reinforce two important trends: (1) the average bear-market investor is patient (i.e., they have a multi-year time horizon); and (2) institutions are building strategic positions in crypto, having used the 2018 downtrend to bolster their positions.

Interestingly enough, it was just last week that Morgan Creek Digital, a leading crypto asset manager, announced that two pension plans became anchor investors in a $40 million venture-capital fund. In other words, retirement planners are beginning to view crypto as a long-term investment vehicle.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Virginia, which is where the two pension plans are located. Combined, they accounted for $21 million of the $40 million invested into Morgan Creek Digital’s fund. More on this story: Virginia Police Department Reveals Why its Pension Fund is Betting on Bitcoin.

BTC/USD Update

Bitcoin clawed back above $3,600 on most major exchanges Saturday even as trade volumes declined. The bitcoin price rose 1% to $3,603.76 on Bitfinex, where it was in close proximity to the 50-day moving average. A clean break above this level could generate sustained bids for the digital currency as it attempts to carve out a higher trading range. The relative strength index (RSI) shows the price has positive momentum, based on the daily chart.

At current values, bitcoin has a total market capitalization of $63.8 billion. That accounts for 52.6% of the overall market. The combined market cap of all assets was $121.2 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 770 rated postsChief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi




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Analysis

Crypto Update: Another Spike Fails in Crypto-Land

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The major cryptocurrencies continue to follow the pattern which consists of sudden spikes followed by choppy sideways periods. Today, the top coins jumped higher, with the strongest currencies testing their recent swing highs, but the move quickly failed. The market continues to be dominated by low liquidity and the bearish long-term forces, making it difficult to make money trading the long side.

That said, the short-term break-outs, which were formed one week ago, remain intact and our trend model is also on short-term buy signals in the case of the relatively stronger coins. Despite the buy signals, traders should remain cautious with new positions, as the long-term forces continue to work against bulls here.

The leadership of last week’s move continues to be weak and without a new batch of coins hitting new short-term highs, it’s hard to see what could propel the market higher. The top 3 coins haven’t been able to pull their weight either, so odds clearly favor the continuation of the bear market from a broader perspective.

BTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Bitcoin remains stuck below the $3600 level despite today’s spike, and the bearish drift that started last week in the coin continues. BTC’s relative weakness is a negative sign for the whole segment, and although it’s still above the support/resistance zone just north of $3450, the long-term setup continues to point of the $3250 and $300o support levels.

That said, the short-term buy signal is still in place in our trend model, and traders could open small, speculative positions in BTC, with strong resistance zones being ahead near $3850 and between $4000 and $4050.

XRP/USDT, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Ripple has also been showing relative weakness in recent days, and today it dipped back below the key $0.30 support/resistance level following the failed rally attempt. While the coin once again avoided a move towards the next main level of interest at $0.28, it is still likely to violate that level and test the August low near $0.26.

With that in mind, traders should stay away from XRP, with our trend also being on short- and long-term trend signals, and barring a move above $0.32, the immediate outlook is also negative, with further resistance levels ahead near $0.3550 and $0.3750.

Litecoin Tests $44 Level Again as Ethereum Clings to $120

LTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

After settling down near the $41 price level, last week’s star LTC spiked as high as $44 today, but it failed to break-out above the key resistance zone. While the break-out remains intact and the MACD indicator still only points to a correction, the market-wide trends remain negative, and the previously leading coin hasn’t shown signs of relative strength in the last couple of days.

Traders could still hold their positions here even though a swing low is not yet confirmed, but strict rsik management rules should still be applied. A move back below $38 would trigger a downgrade in our trend model, which is still on a short-term buy signal. Above the initial resistance at $44, further levels are ahead near the recent swing high near $46 and at $51, while support below $38 is found near $34.50 and between $30 and $30.50.

ETH/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Ethereum has been trading in a narrow range today and the recent short-term swing high capped the rally attempt in the second largest coin. While the coin is still holding on to most of its gains from last week, trading well above the $112 level, the lack of bullish follow-through is a negative sign even regarding the short-term outlook.

The hostile long-term setup raises the odds of a failed short-term rally, and although pour trend model remains on a short-term buy signal, traders should only consider small, speculative positions here. The $120 level continues to be at the center of attention, with another strong resistance above that being found near $130, while further support is found in the $95-$100 zone.

Featured image from Shutterstock

Disclaimer:  The analyst owns cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but doesn’t engage in short-term or day-trading, nor does he hold short positions on any of the coins.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 465 rated postsTrader and financial analyst, with 10 years of experience in the field. An expert in technical analysis and risk management, but also an avid practitioner of value investment and passive strategies, with a passion towards anything that is connected to the market.




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Analysis

The “Accessibility Premium”: How Coinbase’s Overseas Expansion Could Affect Crypto Prices

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The accessibility premium refers to the affect on a cryptocurrency’s price when it is added to Coinbase. The $8 billion valued exchange is now looking to expand beyond its U.S-based institutional trading business to offer institutional services worldwide. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin may end up being the greatest beneficiaries. These cryptocurrencies could gain from increased accessibility; the new “Coinbase Effect”.

In 2018, as the exchange added more cryptocurrencies, some writers wrote about a perceived “Coinbase Effect”, like Ari Paul. They theorize about an “accessibility premium”, in which those crypto-assets that are more accessible rise in price. With Coinbase bringing crypto to worldwide investors, it could bolster demand for those coins that are listed on the San Francisco-based “Goldman Sachs of Crypto”. They would be more accessible. When a new cryptocurrency or token hit the exchange, traders might expect a bump in price. 

On May 3, 2017 Coinbase integrated Litecoin, resulting in a 30% increase in the price. When Coinbase listed Bitcoin Cash on December 19, 2017, trading on global exchanges skyrocketed. Bitcoin cash closed at $4,000. Two days prior, its price had been $2,200. Volume increased from $2.5 billion on December 18 to nearly $12 billion on December 20 for a 380% increase.

Coinbase added Ethereum on July 21, 2016, resulting in a modest 14% rally. Things changed when Brave browser’s token, BAT, launched on Coinbase. It declined in price. Further data is needed to know the truthful dynamics. By the time BAT was listed, the price of crypto had long since started a consolidation, leaving sentiment low.

Fast forward Q1 2019, and Coinbase is expanding overseas. It is laying down infrastructure for the long-term as it looks towards Asian markets, amid moves to attract international institutional money to cryptocurrency trading. (Coinbase’s product GDAX offers US-based institutional trading) New traders might find Coinbase’s familiarity welcoming. Higher volumes would be to expected for the cryptocurrencies offered by the Silicon Valley giant. 

So, the popular exchange is undergoing an extensive expansion. Coinbase customers residing outside of the U.S. can now trade without a domestic bank account. This could be a boon to the prices of cryptos offered by Coinbase, led by Bitcoin.

There has been discussion about the correlation between simplicity and demand. Opinions on the effect ease of use has on demand are not entirely aligned. As Donald Norman says in his book “Living with Complexity”:

… the so-called demand for simplicity is a myth whose time has passed, if it ever existed.

Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item that does more.

Features win over simplicity, even when people realize that features mean more complexity. You do too, I’ll bet. Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, feature by feature, and preferred the one that did more? …

Would you pay more money for a washing machine with fewer controls? In the abstract, maybe. At the store, probably not.

Ultimately, Norman argues for managed complexity. But, the demand for simplicity – or at least clarity – seems logical in a chaotic, complex world. In a blog on their website called “The Customer Demand for Pervasive Simplicity”, Cisco writes of this perception, and how it tailors its products towards this end.

A bastion of crypto-simplicity, Coinbase has long courted institutional investors in the U.S., but now its targets are clearly set on a global institutional book. The stage is set for crypto’s first truly global exchange, though Coinbase will need to first successfully assimilate into new countries, with their unique business practices languages, laws, and regulations. Currently, differing regulations in different countries keep crypto’s exchange ecosystem quite regional.

Coinbase holds 5 percent of all bitcoin, 8 percent of all ethereum, and 25 percent of all litecoin in circulation in cold storage. Its success overseas would likely underpin their prices if the “accessibility premium” holds true.

Marcus Hughes, recently appointed as lead counsel for Coinbase in the United Kingdom, has been tasked with overseeing cross-border expansion: “Coinbase takes the long view on bitcoin and wider cryptocurrency prices,” Hughes said, “We need to move beyond the speculation phase of bitcoin and cryptocurrency to the utility phase.”

He added: “The utility phase will mean bitcoin and crypto becomes more widely accepted and understood.”

This solidifies bullish sentiment from the exchange which will be strengthened should it be successful in its bid to attract ‘big money’, not just from a core user base in the U.S. but also from thriving crypto markets in countries such as Japan.

Coinbase reports that, “In the past twelve months, hundreds of crypto-first hedge funds have launched around the world, and many hundreds more traditional institutions have begun [actively trading digital assets]. High-volume clients across Asia will now have access to Coinbase’s flagship trading platforms for institutions. As part of this rollout, we now support inbound and outbound international (SWIFT) wire transfers, allowing Coinbase clients in Asia to fund their accounts from non-US bank holdings.”

Coinbase predicts a bright future for digital currency in Asia, it says, and looks to enter into a market that could help it to cement a role as one of the global leaders in crypto trading. But there remains a big question mark over cryptocurrencies, prominently over how regulation is going to play a role.

Marcus Hughes opines that this year will see a “massive change” for global bitcoin regulation. He says that Europe will gradually lead the way out of a “crypto winter” into regulated digital currency markets with more potential for long-term stability. But, in the short term, irrational trading might paint an entirely different picture. 

As we see Coinbase invest in the long-term it bolsters confidence in a currently inhospitable climate for bitcoin. Should prices continue to fluctuate market sentiment may dip, but it is the notion of institutional money that may serve to give cryptocurrency markets much-needed price stability. 

Image: David McBee, Pexels

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsJustin O'Connell is the founder of financial technology focused CryptographicAsset.com. Justin organized the launch of the largest Bitcoin ATM hardware and software provider in the world at the historical Hotel del Coronado in southern California. His works appear in the U.S.'s third largest weekly, the San Diego Reader, VICE and elsewhere.




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