Arguably the most interesting financial trend of 2017 is the spreading of cryptocurrencies, especially in the Ethereum ecosystem. With the ICO boom of this year, a lot of different business models have been connected to tokens or blockchains of their own. This brings up several questions in the mind value-conscious investors, as given the special properties of these coins, and especially considering the various distribution and usage schemes of the tokens, valuing them is tricky, to say the least.
Whether or not we are in a bubble currently is a layered question, as we are definitely in a huge speculative wave that will end badly for several coins, but the segment is in the early phase of adoption, and the market as a whole will likely multiply in the coming years.
As I concluded in my comparison with the Dot-Com bubble, selective investing in the ICO-boom is vital for long-term investors. To make things more complicated, traditional valuation models generally fail with cryptocurrencies, because of the hybrid stock-commodity properties of them and the novelty of the technology, coupled with the questions regarding the future usage patterns.
Is it possible to set up a framework to analyze all the different business models and value the connected coins? Or is it possible to, at least, determine hard guidelines to follow when selecting the coins to hold or forget? I will answer that question below and in the coming second part of the article.
Where is the Value Coming From?
For a traditional analyst, the most interesting question is the source of the value of the tokens. There are several crucial hurdles to clear for a token to be considered valuable on the long-run. Why? Firstly, because as opposed to stocks, holding a token doesn’t give you ownership in the company conducting the ICO, thus the success of the company doesn’t directly increase the value of the coin.
Also, the fact that the blockchain technology and all the main patents and methods are freely available to the public means that an infinite number of tokens and blockchains can be created with no legal hurdle, possibly making the competition fierce, decimating demand for the services behind the token and in turn the token itself.
Another problem with the current ICOs is that even if the idea behind the company is valid, and the demand for the token is organic (we will get back to this soon), there is no guarantee that the execution of the idea won’t be obsolete in a matter of months, let alone years. This is one of the main reasons that a lot of Dot-Com companies failed; it’s nice to be a revolutionary player, but more often than not, markets are ruled by the second or third generation of companies that annihilate the pioneers of a technology, leaving only the nostalgy behind.
Non-Ownership Sources of Value
Of course, besides ownership (which is non-existent in most of the current models) there are several ways that the token can acquire value. The most important, in my opinion, is the organic demand for them, that, together with the inherently limited supply can create an imbalance between demand and supply, driving the price of the “digital commodity” higher.
For the holders of the tokens, a lot of projects also deploy some kind of fixed or variable “rent” or “dividend” (yikes). I am, maybe too much so, skeptical regarding these premiums, as they present an extra cost somewhere in the ecosystem that will create immense incentives to create cheaper “rent-free” alternatives for the given business. So, the existence of such a system, while it might be intriguing, in my opinion, could be the exact reason why that the business will fail. But there is a catch; if a model is strong enough to survive and dominate a, sometimes completely new niche, it could be able to sustain these premiums and give a huge boost to the value of the token. But what will set these winners apart from the rest?
To answer that question, we have to note that both of the above sources of value are based strongly on the network effects. This, sometimes elusive, term is used to describe why in some industries the winner takes all (or at least most of the profits), and some companies enjoy a “natural” monopolistic position.
Think Facebook for social networks, Microsoft for OSs, or a landline phone company in the past. Adding more users to such networks not only decreases the cost of operation per user but actually increases the utility that all (yes, this is a huge simplification here, you geeks out there) users enjoy through the network. Translating that to products according to this great summary:
A product displays positive network effects when more usage of the product by any user increases the product’s value for other users (and sometimes all users)
This makes these networks multiple times more valuable than other ecosystems that don’t sport sustainable network effects. Understanding these effects is very important for judging the future demand for blockchain applications and tokens, and not only because it’s a widely used buzzword in whitepapers, sometimes to blur and ridicule any and every concern regarding the business model. But before we take a closer look at network effects, let’s see the logic behind my valuation approach.
The Logic of Determining The Value of Applications and Tokens
We have to stress that this is only a basic filter, but one that has great heuristical value to move forward in the analysis. According to Fortune:
Jeff Garzik, a leading figure in the blockchain community who runs a consultancy called Bloq, sees ICOs as “transformative” but remains wary. “Ninety-nine percent of these ICOs will be garbage,” he says. “It’s like penny stocks but with less regulation.”
While the 99% might be a bit rough, it is safe to say that most of the current ICOs will end up left behind, while the survivors will multiply several times in value and create the infrastructure for a new crop of businesses that will thrive in the blossoming industry. Still, investors’ primary job in such a nascent segment is to efficiently filter out obvious and less obvious scams, losers, and laggards. For that, the first step is to really understand what’s driving the revolution in the first place.
The Most Important Advantages of the Blockchain Technology
In order to create a framework for valuing cryptocurrencies, we have to be, at least vaguely, aware of the current and possible use cases of the technology. The novelty of the tech makes this very hard and in some cases impossible, but if we keep track of the main advantages of the blockchain we can identify projects and business models that are built upon the real strength of the technology rather than on the hype.
- Permanent and verified transaction records
- Simplified databases and tracking functionalities
- Lower transaction costs and times
- Security of a decentralized and redundant system
- Peer-to-peer transmissions
- Smart-contract logic: rule-based business models and ecosystems
Matching these virtues with the business models is only the first step; while you can identify potential winners, aligning with the strength of the technology doesn’t mean that a venture will be a long-term winner, not to mention the exact “valuation” of the token. These advantages will also take effect in several different levels of the economy, from private, limited user-base blockchains to global transformational systems that might be used by the majority of the citizens of the world. You can see a model of adoption with examples below from the great article of Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani.
The Adoption Cycle’s Role in Valuing Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Applications
While that sounds chilling and revolutionary, there is an investment problem here; even if you went back to the 80’s with the knowledge about Google, you couldn’t have directly invested in the company, as not only the founders of the firm were in kindergarten, the infrastructure that the business was based was non-existent. So are we in the 80’s of the blockchain technology? Well, in a way yes, global transformational adoption will likely take at least another decade. That said, my gut feeling is that this adoption cycle, although it will resemble the Internet’s will provide huge surprises; both positive and negative ones.
The Looming Coin-Regulation Storm
It’s hard to overstate the regulatory hurdles that the segment will soon face. The ICOs legal framework is shaky, to say the least, and somehow regulators will try to curb the boom and divert in into a more traditional direction. And in a lot of ways, that would be good for investors as well. A more regulated market would be beneficial in avoiding scams, while letting the currently left-out investors participate in the rise of the new industry.
For the current crop of coins, this is probably the biggest risks out there, as whole ICOs could be deemed illegal, leaving holders of the tokens out in the cold, or facing an uncertain transition into another legal framework that would likely push the value of the ventures and the tokens down.
In the next part of the article, I will take a look at this and other risks that blockchains and systems built upon them face. I will also set-up actionable guidelines to weigh the advantages and the risks of certain applications and cryptocurrencies while forecasting the actual demand for the service and the attached token. To make it more robust, I will integrate some of the traditional valuation methods as well.
Long-Term Cryptocurrency Analysis: Bitcoin Outshines Altcoins Again
The most valuable coin had another encouraging week, as it emerged from a brief but violent correction, just to reach new highs towards the end of the week, draining capital from altcoins. The total value of the market is stagnating near the all-time high, but BTC crossed the $100 billion mark as it surged past the $6000 price level, controlling 58% of the market.
With the long-term MACD clearly being overbought, and as the long-term target has been hit, investors should now be looking for exit points, even as the short-term uptrend is intact. The range projection target of the recent correction is found at $7000, but correction risks are already high, and only small positions should be kept in the current setup.
BTC/USD, Daily Chart Analysis
Most of the major altcoins are trading in narrow ranges this weekend after a slightly bearish week, as the optimism surrounding Ethereum’s major update faded and the second largest coin re-entered its previous range.
Litecoin, Dash, and Monero are still looking encouraging despite the lengthy correction, while the recently, while the relatively weak Ethereum Classic IOTA continue to show worrying signs. As the Bitcoin long trade is getting stretched, let’s see the how the daily charts of the altcoins are shaping up.
Bitcoin Hits $100 Billion as Record Rally Continues
Bitcoin’s epic rally intensified Friday, as the token reached $6,000 for the first time in its history, bringing the total market value above $100 billion.
Bitcoin’s Fresh Intraday High
BTC/USD touched an intraday high of $6,064.14, bringing its total market cap to $100.8 billion. That’s roughly $85 billion higher than where the market started in January.
At press time, bitcoin was trading around $5,993, up more than 5% on the day. From a technical perspective, the digital currency is considered overbought. However, the technicals are typically less reliable during extreme price movements like we’ve seen in recent weeks. The world’s leading cryptocurrency has added a staggering 520% this year.
Bitcoin’s rally didn’t really extend to other cryptocurrencies Friday. Ethereum continued to trade just north of $300, while Ripple (XRP) consolidated a hair below 21 U.S. cents.
The cryptocurrency market’s combined market cap is roughly $173.4 billion, which is roughly $3 billion less than the Monday’s peak.
Bitcoin could be heading north of $10,000 a unit in the not-too-distant future, according to a survey conducted by CNBC. About 49% of the 23,118 people who voted in the CNBC poll said the digital currency will reach the five-figure threshold.
Roughly 16% of respondents said bitcoin prices are heading to between $6,000 and $8,000. About a third selected the Jamie Dimon option by calling bitcoin a fraud.
Though unscientific, the survey clearly shows that the mainstream is paying attention to the rapid acceleration of cryptocurrency. At least a portion of them will investigate the matter further, and likely conclude that digital assets are a welcome addition to their portfolio.
It’s impossible to associate bitcoin’s success with just one catalyst, but it’s clear that institutional support, the allure of the blockchain and favorable regulation in markets like Japan are feeding the rally. An anticipated November hard fork is also helping to shore up price.s
A Day of Milestones
Bullish sentiment also rubbed off on U.S. stocks Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its rally above 23,000. The blue-chip index climbed tacked on 165 points to close at 23,328.63 after the U.S. Senate passed the 2018 budget by the narrowest of margins.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also set fresh all-time highs, with financials and industrials leading the rally.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Cryptocurrency Analysis: Bitcoin Tests $6000 as Market Settles Down
Bitcoin is in the center of attention yet again, as the most valuable coin is knocking on the door of the $100 billion level in market capitalization. The coin touched our long-term target at $6000 on several exchanges, but it’s now trading slightly below the historic level.
While the rest of the market is quiet, BTC is very active, and it could be in for a volatile weekend, as despite the long-term overbought readings, the short-term uptrend is clearly intact. That said, investors should avoid opening new positions here, and consider lowering their exposure further, while traders should only trade with smaller than usual sizes. Support levels are found at $5400, $5000, and near the $4650 level.
BTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis
As the rest of the majors are still recovering from the recent correction, the total value of the segment is below its all-time high, with BTC’s dominance now standing at 57%. Most of the largest coins are little changed, with Monero and Liteocin showing considerable strength and IOTA still being the weakest of the majors. With all attention on BTC let’s see how the most traded altcoins look before the weekend.
- Trade Recommendation: Qtum October 21, 2017
- Long-Term Cryptocurrency Analysis: Bitcoin Outshines Altcoins Again October 21, 2017
- Trade Recommendation: Waves October 21, 2017
- Week In Review: Stocks Take-Off Along with Bitcoin and the Dollar October 21, 2017
- Bitcoin Hits $100 Billion as Record Rally Continues October 21, 2017
- Will Crude Oil Reach $68 a Barrel in 2018? October 21, 2017
- ICO Update: Polkadot October 20, 2017
- Daily Analysis: Stocks Shoot for the Moon as Senate Passes Budget October 20, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Analysis: Bitcoin Tests $6000 as Market Settles Down October 20, 2017
- Trade Recommendation: Ethereum October 20, 2017
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