Has Ethereum Lost Its Cache?

For all of us believers that asset prices are set by fundamentals rather than fantasy, these are perplexing times.  Crypto prices are not only way off their January highs, they are at the lowest level this year. Progress in addressing issues like scaling and security may be slow, but they are taking place.  The cooperation between crypto and government regulators is improving in big chunks.

Yet, while all this is going on crypto technicals look terrible. Everyday technical analysts use words like downtrend and overhead resistance.  When prices have rallied, the joy is short lived, lasting only for a day or two. Even on good days, the moves are weak on low volume.  This is never a good sign. Long gone are the kind of investor fears about missing out (FOMO) that we saw last year.

There are fundamental reasons for skepticism for long term believers, as the data has not been going in the right direction.  True, projects are progressing a slow pace. This maybe good for avoiding problems with security etc., but for investors who want immediate gratification, right now crypto isn’t ringing any bells.

But truth is, crypto markets appear to be unresponsive even to seemingly good news. Take for example this recent Cryptovest headline: Cardano (ADA) Releases New Version, Price Remains Stagnant.   Today, crypto exchange Coinbase announced it was increasing daily trading limits sevenfold, changing settlement times from days to instantaneous and finishing its beta before accepting Ethereum Classic.

At the time of this writing, Bitcoin had fallen over 8% in the previous 24 hours while ETH was off almost 10.5%.  This marks on of the worst days for crypto in quite a long time.

Drilling down a bit into ETH reveals some core softness.  Since virtually the entire crypto pricing stinks there is more than a single cause to Ethereum’s weakness, but here is a start.

Using DappRadar To Measure Ether Demand

According to Business Insider, there were over 930 ICOs last year that raised anywhere from $3-$5.7 billion depending on which resource you listen to.  In the first quarter of 2018, there were roundly another 200 raising over $6 billion. These numbers make for great headlines but there is one problem.  They have not translated into higher prices for Ether, or any other crypto either.

The Ethereum platform can claim that somewhere between 70%-80% of ICOs that have Dapps built on the ETH platform.  If logic were applied, this should result in greater demand for Ether. But as the truism goes, if everything were logical, men would ride sidesaddle!

One of the clues to unlock this contradiction may rest in the use cases for the most active Dapps.  What I an getting at is this: when the top five Dapps function as exchanges to buy and sell Ether or any other ERC-20 token, that is not a sign of mass adoption. Nor is it good when almost 75% of the activity in the top five is accounted by three Dapps and those are exchanges. And finally when volume on nine out of the top ten are trending down, it is not what investors want so see.

To keep some balance to these observations, there are some positive use cases.  Three of the ten most active Dapps are for gamers, and that is a use case worth it weight in any currency. Also, usage levels tend to be quite volatile from hour to hour so we may have checked on an atypical moment.  But what we want to see are use cases like marketplaces or even gambling where user demand trumps speculators and where activity is growing.

What Is Happening With Augur

And speaking of gambling, Ethereum big gun Augur, which allows users to create prediction markets for just about anything by buying shares and staking ETH in the outcome of an event.  When launched in early July nearly 1,200 were traded in a 24 hour period. At the time Augur appeared to be one of Ethereum’s most promising Dapps.

To be clear, 1,200 is just a benchmark and not proof of success or failure. However, when Augur, one of your most promising Dapps, is being used less than 100 a day with a huge valuation of over $300 million, that is a disappointing moment.

What Ethereum Needs

So what is missing here?  From the insights offered by DappRadar, the answer is that ETH, and for that matter crypto in general, is hungry for valid signs of a breakthrough in mass adoption. In other words, developments in the payments side of crypto could well provide the needed solution. There is no shortage of projects like Bitcoin Superstore and TenX.  And there is always the possibility that the critics of Augur are premature in claiming this potentially game changing Dapp is a disappointment. But so far all of the flashy new whitepapers and highly valued ICOs aren’t connecting with investors. It is time for proof that actual crypto users are getting into game.  And obviously, what is good for ETH is also needed by other players as well.

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.