Editor's note: This column has been updated to disclose the writer's advocacy of blockchain technology--the underpinning of all crytocurrencies--and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warning about these investments.
Less than a year ago, the average human did not know what cryptocurrency was. The market was limited mostly to a techy crowd of developers and very early adopters, considering Bitcoin was the only major currency on the block back then. But thanks to a number of really smart entrepreneurs, rising prices, and a powerful community, everything is changing and crypto is going mainstream.
Ethereum, Stratis, Sia, AntShares/NEO, TenX, and others are leading the charge of the technological revolution that is blockchain. Cryptocurrency-based crowdfunding known as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are also a major player in the revolution. Blockchain startups like TenX have raised $80 million dollars in a matter of literal minutes to solve a big challenge for cryptocurrency holders--actually spending the currency in the real world. It should be noted here that I am an advocate of blockchain technology.
Entire governments, such as China's, are considering utilizing a national digital currency. Even the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, met with the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin. All of this good press and positive outlook has caused many billions of dollars to be added to the market in the last seven months.
Editor's note: Bitcoin and digital currencies, as with any investment, may involve the risk of loss. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warned that virtual currencies, including Bitcoin, carry "significant risk" to consumers.
The excitement about the cryptocurrency market has attracted a lot of entrepreneurs who are looking to disrupt big industries through Blockchain technology.
I think of Blockchain disruption as creating disrupters to the disrupters. This new wave of Blockchain startups, such as Sia, are looking to disrupt companies like Dropbox and Amazon AWS. If they are even remotely successful, we are looking at many 10s if not 100s of billions of dollars being added to the overall cryptocurrency market as they continue to grow.
Another example of entrepreneurship at its finest is TenX. They are literally solving the biggest spending issue in cryptocurrency, actually making the tokens spendable in the real world. They are using debit/credit cards that physically store cryptocurrency then instantly convert them into Fiat (USD, EUR, YEN, etc.).
Stratis is considered a sleeper cryptocurrency because of its relative low price compared to its technological advancement. It's a BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) platform that aims to provide enterprise level Blockchains and services to companies like Microsoft. AntShares/NEO is also considered a sleeper cryptocurrency by many.
The cryptocurrency market can seem volatile compared to traditional markets. There is more up and down movement, but the general trend line is a strong uptrend. A lot of people believe Ethereum alone will be worth over $1,000 a token in the next year or two. That will drive the prices of many other currencies up a lot.
Bitcoin, the oldest of popular cryptocurrencies and current market leader in terms of market cap, but not technology, is facing a potential split on or around August 1. There are a number of possible scenarios, including breaking Bitcoin into two separate coins. This could cause what is referred to as The Flippening to occur, and if it does, look for Ethereum to rapidly gain in price and for Bitcoin to fall from its first-place market share.
If (or, most likely, when) this event does happen, Ethereum could be more of the market indicator than Bitcoin currently is. Meaning, if Ethereum goes up, everything else tends to go up, which has been the case for Bitcoin recently, as it tends to control the market.
The market as a whole has been particularly strong in recent weeks. Ethereum was worth as much as $420 a token and as little as the $180 range in the last few weeks. But the strength of the market really shined when the $180 "drop" happened and it quickly re-tested $200 multiple times and showed that $200 was the current floor price. This creates a sense of security in the market and helps people believe in it more long term when they see these quick rebounds from drops in price.