Bitcoin isn't a fraud as some prominent bankers have recently claimed. Fraud requires deception and misrepresentation for personal gain, whereas bitcoiners believe heart and soul in the crypto's potential to change the world – despite its very limited adoption by ordinary consumers and businesses.
During the seven years since its creation, bitcoin has most closely resembled a fast-growing cult, its gospel of pure math money spread by millions of zealots around the globe. It is a religion that worships freedom: money that's free from government abuse, confiscation and censorship; the freedom to hold and transfer money without relying on risky and costly intermediaries, such as banks; Internet-compatible money that's as flexible and borderless as email.
Satoshi Nakamoto and His Bitcoin Bible
So far, bitcoin believers have been richly rewarded for their faith. If you'd purchased $10,000 worth of bitcoin seven years ago when the First Church of Bitcoin was founded by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto (bitcoin's holy ghost), you'd be a multimillionaire today. And that's just what's happened to hundreds, maybe thousands, of bitcoiners.
That extraordinary ROI has swelled the bitcoin ranks with new buyers who have in turn driven bitcoin price even higher. To critics it's a classic "greater fool" scenario and the only question is who will be holding the bag when the music stops. To bitcoiners their new found crypto wealth speaks for itself: over the past 12 months, bitcoin has soared 700%, hitting nearly USD $5,000 per BTC in the summer.
Imagine if your stock portfolio performed half as well.
Ready for your Crypto Baptism?
So, should you drink the crypto Kool-Aid? Joining the bitcoin cult is simple. All you need to do is exchange some of your hard-earned dollars (or yuan, euros, pounds, etc) for crypto in the cloud.
Or maybe you'd rather join one of the newer crypto cults – Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, ZCash – that have sprouted from bitcoin and/or from the minds of Satoshi's earliest disciples. Why choose? You can buy all of them and believe in all of them. The cryptocurrency boom is a return to polytheism: a dozen different flavors of financial freedom to worship.
As happens with all religions, the global explosion of crypto faithful has led to the building of churches where novices can be inducted and the faithful can worship simply by swapping more fiat for crypto. These digital asset exchanges are connected to dozens of national bank systems. Coinbase, the biggest crypto cathedral in the United States, recently added 40,000 new accounts in a single day.
Crypto exchanges can be banned, as they recently were in China, but bitcoin adoption continues via peer-to-peer networks enabled by platforms like LocalBitcoins and AirTM, the fintech start-up we launched two years ago. Padlock the front doors of the church and the worship will go underground, especially when the economic incentives are so powerful and the believers so passionate about freedom. Like the Internet, decentralised crypto networks cannot be turned off.
Crypto's Giant Real-World Use-Case
For those of you who have a hard time with faith-based investing and are wary of the crypto bubble bursting before your crypto Kool-Aid moustache has even dried, I have some very good news. Crypto solves a giant problem for ordinary consumers and businesses in the developing world: access to stores of value that are superior to their often weak and rapidly devaluing local currency. Thanks to crypto exchanges and traders, just about any kind of local money can be traded for crypto, which in turn can be exchanged for major currencies. Since those major currencies can be traded for any asset class, crypto is the key to enabling anyone to hold any asset no matter where they live.
At AirTM we witness this every day, clients from over 100 countries have exchanged local money for digital USD in their eWallet. They do it to preserve wealth or as a way-station to another banking system. Providing consumers and businesses with a safe, compliant, and convenient alternative to risky street dollars is our mission and we believe it's also cryptocurrency's biggest near-term use-case.
This use-case won't stop at replacing the estimated $400bn in US dollars held outside the United States. Just as the internet made content ubiquitously available, cryptocurrencies will facilitate access by consumers and businesses to every possible asset class, from tech stocks to Powerball lottery tickets. Demand in the developing world for these assets will drive demand for cryptos and send their prices higher.
Still worried about crypto being a faith-based bubble or some sort of post-modern Ponzi scheme? As my Catholic grandmother likes to say: you don't have to believe in hell to end up there. The crypto corollary might be: you don't have to understand bitcoin to benefit from its upside.