The Crypto Winter Wasn’t the Real Story of 2018, and It Won’t Be for 2019 Either

Eric Piscini
Dec 21, 2018 at 05:00 UTC
Updated Dec 21, 2018 at 18:16 UTC
opinion

Eric Piscini is the CEO of Citizens Reserve and the former blockchain lead for Deloitte. 

The following is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s 2018 Year in Review

2018 year in review

Blockchain moves so quickly that last month’s news sometimes feels like ancient history. But instead of thinking about our crypto winter, this month I’ve been thinking about the early days of blockchain.

We’ve come a long way, but still have far to go. In 2012, I launched Deloitte’s blockchain practice with two friends, and the following year, I moderated a panel at the Money2020 conference. Blockchain was so new it didn’t even have a proper name yet: the panel I led was called “Bitcoin 2.0.”

However, we knew more would come from the industry. Charlie Lee, David Johnson, and Taariq Lewis were talking about self-governing organizations, about digitized commodities, and about decentralized business models. Most of the room was completely lost. I was energized.

As we close 2018, one of the key lessons is that the most important stories in cryptocurrency aren’t always the ones with the loudest headlines. Despite being the center of many discussions, the “crypto winter” doesn’t strike me as the key story of 2018. What do I think was more important?

First, the rise of “other” tokens — security tokens, non-fungible tokens, stablecoins, and equity tokens demonstrated the continued vitality of the blockchain community. That a single year, and a tough year at that, saw so many diverse and innovative products proves the enduring value of the blockchain.

Second, significant investments in cryptocurrency and blockchain infrastructure from traditional financial institutions and new technology companies mean we have much stronger foundations to build on: wallets, trading technologies, custodian solutions, exchanges, broker solutions, and more.

Finally, the regulatory environment. While a certain strain of crypto enthusiast might believe regulation sounds a death knell for blockchain, I think this viewpoint is misguided on two counts. First, regulation removes and discourages the bad actors who have done such harm to blockchain’s reputation. Second, regulation proves that blockchain is here to stay.

There’s no need to regulate a fad; it will expire well before a bill reaches committee. An enduring new asset, however, needs a place in a legal framework. Legislators have decided that blockchain is growing, not evaporating.

What do I expect to see in 2019? Given the speed and volatility of cryptocurrency, you’ll have to allow me some margin of error, but here’s what I see coming in the next 12 months:

  1. Investing at the bottom: If we haven’t reached the solstice of the crypto winter yet, we’re very close; brighter and warmer days are coming soon. The early days of 2019 are the time to make bets on the best tokens and the best teams. I call it the new Rockefeller moment.
  2. A new Howey test: The SEC’s increased scrutiny of blockchain has meant that blockchain proponents have had to learn about SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., the 1946 Supreme Court case that defined securities in U.S. law. I expect the courts to promulgate a new test for blockchain, which will let investors place their money with greater confidence.
  3. Better core tech: It may have taken a bear market to drive this point home to some, but blockchain is not about getting rich tomorrow. We need to pay more attention to improvements in performance and scalability and pay less attention to new projects. #BUIDL is the new #HODL.
  4. Decentralized business models: This may be the hardest of my predictions to imagine. In 2019, we will see the rise of decentralized businesses in banking, capital markets, payments, insurance, supply chain and other fields. The next Google or Amazon could make its appearance, but they’ll be very different: They won’t be looking for a place on Nasdaq, because they’ll be generating network value more than equity value.
  5. A killer consumer app: While blockchain conferences were the killer app of 2018, we’re still looking for the product that will bring blockchain’s value to the non-tech, non-business consumer audience. I’ve tried a few apps that purported to be killer apps, but the experience was so bad I wonder if the developers thought killer apps were supposed to kill their users. I survived, and I’m hoping for more and better next year.

To return again to that long-ago Money 2020 conference: it’s rare to be speaking to a single visionary, much less three. Most of the ideas that Charlie, David and Tariq discussed that day were so forward-looking that they were, at the time, dismissed as impossible or ignored as incomprehensible.

Today, many of their ideas have become implementations. Tomorrow, more will follow.

I’m beginning to wonder if those pie-in-the-sky predictions for 2020 were, in fact, too conservative. Who knows what we’ll see next year? Sometimes, good ideas arrive too early. Time and again, I’ve seen that the difference between genius and stupidity, between a project that will succeed versus one that is premature, is 18 months.

Have an opinionated take on 2018? CoinDesk is seeking submissions for our 2018 in Review. Email news [at] coindesk.com to learn how to get involved. 

Winter sun via Shutterstock

This article has been updated.