Last week saw the release of CoinDesk’s latest State of Bitcoin report, which gives a quarterly snapshot of the digital currency ecosystem.
Q3 was marked by a shift towards bitcoin technology’s use in non-financial applications, for example settlement. Both startups – with products like itBit’s bankchain – and large financial institutions – who are now investing in blockchain companies – drove this rhetoric.
Here, we’ve collected a few interesting tidbits you might have missed from the report – which weighs in at 87 slides.
1. Trading and volatility are back up
Last quarter, bitcoin experienced an uncharacteristic period of calm, with a peak-to-trough percentage of 20%. This zen didn’t last, however, as Q3 saw this figure rise by 13% (Side 12).
While it’s still on the lower end of the volatility spectrum (Q2 2014 recorded a peak-to-trough percentage of 84%), the quarter did see a boost in trading (Slide 13).
In the latter part of Q2, monthly trading volume had been between 5 and 6 million bitcoins. In August, it exceeded 10 million bitcoins – the first time since April.
2. But investment is down
While traders were putting more cash on the line in Q3, investor interest actually fell.
VC investment in bitcoin companies dropped 41% from $145m to $85m – the lowest total of the last four quarters (Slide 30).
Despite large rounds from Chain ($30m) and BitFury ($20m), the average deal size also fell from $10m in Q2 to $6m in Q3.
This could be a seasonal slump, following a larger VC trend that slowed 5% in Q3.
However, the 2015 year to date total ($462m) is more than double that for 2014 (Slide 26), while the total invested in bitcoin startups ($921m) nears the billion dollar mark (Slide 27).
3. Despite the hype, no $ for emerging markets
Though emerging markets have been touted as the most likely places bitcoin could succeed, they have been the biggest losers VC-wise.
The Bitcoin Market Potential Index (BMPI), which tracks factors such as technology penetration and financial repression (Slide 54), ranks Argentina, Venezuela and Zimbabwe in the top spots.
In fact, 40% of markets in the BMPI’s top 10 are in Sub-Saharan Africa, while 20% are in Latin America.
However, the State of Bitcoin shows there was no VC investment in African, Latin American or Middle Eastern startups in Q3 or Q2 (Slide 32).
It’s no surprise that the US and Canada come top for VC investment, receiving 75% of all money in Q3 – nearly triple the rest of the world combined.
In addition, North America and Europe (which comes second in Q3’s VC funding) are the destinations with the most bitcoin-accepting businesses (Slide 53).
4. Merchant interest slumps, again
While transactions (Slide 44) and wallet numbers (Slide 45) continue to rise, they don’t paint the whole picture.
The two biggest merchant processors, BitPay and Coinbase, saw growth among new merchants halve in Q2 (Slide 48).
It appears last quarter’s boost of 12,000 merchants may have been an anomaly, with numbers now plateauing at 6,000 per quarter – the same for Q1 and Q2.
BitPay announced it would cut staff in an effort to “reduce costs” and “better align with the pace of growth” in the industry (Slide 47). It is no longer offering its free tiered product.
Revenues are slowing too, at $190bn they are only up $2bn from June 2015, Q2. Companies, such as Expedia (Slide 49), say purchases taper off after time.
Those who appear to be holding fast during the slump are best geared to bitcoin’s Millenial demographic.
5. New York’s Bitlicense divided opinion
Q3 also saw the official deadline for bitcoin companies applying for New York’s Bitlicense, in order to serve customers in the state.
The regulations, which had been on the boil since 2013, proved divisive for the community.
By today’s count, some 22 companies applied for the license – with Circle the first to get it – while 15 others ceased operations in the state.
Many who left cited the large legal costs involved, $100,000 by Bitstamp’s estimates, while others framed their withdrawal as a political statement, a backlash against what they termed ‘overly invasive’ guidelines.
Bitcoin symbols image via Shutterstock