In May 2017, I’ve called some experts and asked them “Why are Bitcoin and Ethereum growing so fast?” This was after an intense period of growth for both popular cryptocurrencies, especially Ethereum, which was up 1,400% in three months. The market cap of all cryptocurrencies put together at the time seemed unreal: 80 billion dollars. Then — and throughout 2017 — the experts I spoke to invariably advised caution, saying the prices might have risen too high, too fast.
But the prices kept rising.
Throughout 2017, crypto prices continued to rise. At one point the crypto market cap was over $800 billion, and one Bitcoin was worth nearly twenty thousand dollars.
In January this year, the trend reversed. The prices started falling, and they kept at it. Now, it feels like we’ve reached full circle. The collective market cap of all cryptocurrencies is at $191 billion — the first time it went below $200 billion since Nov. 2017.
The price action on the cryptocurrency market in the last couple of days can easily be described as a bloodbath. Bitcoin is currently trading at $6,007, down 14.42% in the last week. Ethereum is at $264, down a whopping 35.28% in a week. Other major cryptocurrencies, such as Ripple, Bitcoin Cash and EOS, are down double digits as well.
There’s no clear trigger for this price decline, at least not in the news. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission needs to make its mind up about a few proposed Bitcoin Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) but the fact that it’s taking a little longer cannot be the sole reason behind the extremely negative sentiment of the market.
Charles Hayter, the CEO of CryptoCompare, told me via email that SEC’s decision to decline one Bitcoin ETF has “snowballed negative investor sentiment.”
“It has to be remembered that Bitcoin and its ilk are opening up a new arena of finance. The hope and speculation that gripped the market last year has been eroded in the last few months,” he said.
There’s no “cure” for bubbles except to let them run their course and pop, unfortunately.
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) June 13, 2017
The price drop of ether, the currency of Ethereum, is especially interesting. Ethereum has been the platform of choice to kickstart blockchain projects via initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the past year, and thousands of projects managed to raise millions of dollars this way.
Now, it’s in a bit of a death spiral. According to data collected by research company Santiment, which tracks how ICOs handle their ether, a large number of startups that raised money in ether is likely selling it for dollars and euros, and fast. This drives the price down, but since the price of tokens built on the Ethereum platform typically follows the price of ether, the market capitalizations of those projects are going down even faster.
In a bizarre twist, numerous ICO-funded startups now have market caps that are significantly lower than the amount of money they raised in ICO. Crypto mining startup Envion, for example, raised $100 million dollars worth of ether in January, but all of its tokens put together are currently worth below $7 million.
When will the bleeding stop? It may happen when cryptocurrencies finally reach the mainstream — whatever that means.
“Under the hood, a lot of work has been moving ahead to form the routes to incumbent institutions and to provide them with tools, mechanisms and assurances for entering the crypto space,” said Hayter. “It’s only a matter of time before the cryptosphere becomes a part of the mainstream but it needs to do a lot of growing up in the process.”
The sentiment is echoed by many who are actively building things in the space. Don’t look at the price, they say, look at the stuff that we’re working on. But that’s easier said than done.
Look, shut up about the price already. I’m gonna be blunt: if price is the main metric you’re paying attention to, you’re here for the wrong reasons and you can go home. I’ve never been more bullish about the tech and social side of Ethereum. All the buidlers I know feel the same
— Lane Rettig (@lrettig) August 13, 2018
Even in this carnage, there have been experts who said that a big price cryptocurrency price rise is still possible as early as this year. Arthur Hayes, co-founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Bitmex, said in July that Bitcoin needs to go down before it goes up, and he was definitely right about that. He also said that Bitcoin might still rally to $50,000 by year’s end.
Note, however, that very few people, including experts, were able to accurately predict how high Bitcoin and Ethereum will go in 2017. It’s quite possible that they won’t be able to predict how low they will go, either.
Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH.