Bitcoin, the digital currency based on blockchain technology, exploded in price last week, shooting up to a high-water mark of $19,000 per single coin. It has since retraced to the $15,000 level, but is holding firm in that territory.
If some observers can be believed, this week’s run-up in price is a prelude to bitcoin hitting heights undreamed of when it was selling for several cents. In fact, John McAfee, the founder of the computer anti-virus software that bears his last name, has promised to perform a vulgar act of self-abuse if bitcoin’s single-coin price doesn’t reach $1 million by 2020.
While one week’s explosion doesn’t necessarily mean that good times have permanently arrived, it does create new opportunities for blockchain entertainment companies. Many startups are emerging that are funded by such cryptocurrencies as bitcoin and blockchain, and rising prices mean there is more liquidity in the market to service new ideas.
What’s driving this upward momentum? Each day, new reports emerge from financial talk shows from grumpy old men who call bitcoin as a fraud, a scam, and a way for criminals and terrorists to fund their activities.
But here’s the real story: those same financial giants have been quietly kicking the tires on bitcoin, and the first Wall Street exchanges have emerged that will make bitcoin subject to government oversight. Both exchanges deal in futures, which are complex financial strategies, but essentially are bets that something will move up or down in price in the future. What it really means is that bitcoin, one viewed strictly as a tech gimmick and a money laundering tool, is finally ready to join mainstream finance.
For the uninitiated, bitcoin is a digital currency that is decentralized, meaning no government controls it. It is based on blockchain technology, and new bitcoin can be created by a process called mining, wherein complex mathematical formulas are solved by machines. Bitcoin is sold via online exchanges, which serve the role that banks would with traditional fiat money.
The price of bitcoin was around $1,000 per single coin at the beginning of 2017. It has since gone up exponentially, with investors pouring into the market and creating new companies to exploit bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology. Major banks, insurance companies and even governments have been actively involved in promoting – and sometimes policing – the wild west of bitcoin. But so far, nothing has stopped its growth.
Now, bitcoin is about to enter a new phase. The big boys of Wall Street are entering the picture.
CBOE Holdings, the largest US options exchange, earlier announced that it was teaming with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’s Gemini Trust Co. to creative a vehicle for bitcoin derivatives. You know the Winklevoss twins if you saw The Social Network, which portrayed how Mark Zuckerberg took their concept for Facebook and expanded on it. The Winklevii challenged him in court, and used their settlement funding to make themselves the first bitcoin billionaires.
The agreement with CBOE uses Gemini’s bitcoin data to create futures on bitcoin. Chicago-based CBOE plans to start its trading platform as of today. CBOE also has the right to create and distribute new indexes under the contract.
Cameron Winklevoss told the Wall Street Journal that the agreement “will bring more participants into the market who will now be able to express a viewpoint on bitcoin.”
Also getting in the game is the CME Group, which has been given the green light by federal regulators to start trading bitcoin futures as of Dec.18. CME is the owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and owns and operates large futures and derivatives exchanges. It also owns the Dow Jones stock and financial indexes, and the CME Clearing Services, which settles exchange trades.
All of this will likely excite mom and pop investor to finally jump into the bitcoin game. Many institutional investors are counting on that surge to lift the overall market, and perhaps make the futures market eventually even bigger than the direct buys of digital currency.
For the emerging blockchain and cryptocurrency entertainment companies, this is only good news.
Adi Sideman, CEO of Props by YouNow, a social media video play, sees the instiutional investors as the driving force.
“The attention bitcoin is getting in the general markets is good news for all crypto projects, as it creates more awareness and validation of the space,” said Sideman.
Of course, as with all investments, past performance is no indicator of future success. But the presence of seasoned investors and executives in the space augers well for its prospects. It just might be possible that John McAfee will never have to do anything other than count his bitcoin riches.