We’re About to Find Out Who in Crypto Is Really ‘In It for the Tech’

There’s a recurring joke on Crypto Twitter where everytime there’s a plunge, people say they’re “in it for the tech.” Basically in boom times, everyone’s excited about making insane amounts of money day after day after day. But when the line goes down, suddenly people pretend to care more about abstract ideas of decentralization, sound money, fighting the Fed, censorship-free transactions, human rights and so forth.

It’s a self-deprecating joke, but to be fair, lots of people are in it for the tech in good times and bad times. The line goes up a lot, but there are unironically people who are excited about building a financial system that’s open, and which routes around traditional power centers, whether they are banks, central banks or other types of regulators. Of course it’s a spectrum though. A lot of people are also in it because of the casino aspect… a casino where for the last decade lots of players won big.

Yesterday David Weisberger, the CEO of CoinRoutes, summed up the state of the crypto market in what I thought was a really elegant way.

This is really the spectrum. There’s a lot of extremely ideological Bitcoin people. People who dislike fiat currency. People who believe that individuals should have the right to transact with each other on an Alice-to-Bob basis, without some third party saying it’s not allowed. People who, above all, want to hold an asset that’s free from seizure or debasement. That’s category one.

The third category, Meme Coins, is what I wrote about yesterday. There’s almost no discernable ideology there other than gambling and making money on an unregulated market that’s somewhere between a casino and a pretend stock market -- except with real money. These are pure YOLO traders, in it for money. And maybe for the fun. But they’re not “in it for the tech” in some obvious way.

And then that middle category is a blend of both. This is the world that’s mostly being built upon the Ethereum platform, and there’s all kinds of cool stuff in terms of market structure, lending, staking and different ways of conceptualizing governance. But also there’s a lot of gambling there too. The recently launched Shiba coin, which rocketed towards billions of dollars in value, simply as a parody of Dogecoin, was launched on Ethereum and traded on Uniswap.

Of course there's no obvious bright line between someone who’s in it for the technology and someone who just wants to make money and the reason for that is the people who are in it for the tech have made unbelievable gobs of money over the last decade, so you could be into both. And although there's a spectrum, participants of all kinds exist on both ends.

Sure, Bitcoin is filled with ideologues, but also there’s lots and lots of gamblers there too, who like checking the number every five minutes on their Coinbase app. And they may have never bothered to move a coin to a private wallet, to write down a seed phrase or to even send an on-chain transaction. And at the meme coins angle, there are people fascinated by the new financial market worlds being built.

Anyway, we're in a pretty big selloff right now. And we might soon get a better sense of how many participants in the whole thing were basically punters who enjoyed watching a line go up or down versus those who were genuinely in it for the tech, and want to be part of some to-be-determined crypto-based world that’s being built.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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