Even the most jaded financial executive will have to admit that free markets largely work. So this notion that bitcoin as a currency is not real and has no value is a bit puzzling. It has a bid, it has an ask, and it has trading volume. And while a $6B market cap isn’t large in the grand scheme of things, for those who were there when Bitcoin’s market cap was worth less than $10 million, it sure looks like progress.
Bitcoin is based in math. An account can be generated simply by thinking of a phrase in your head and all of a sudden, you can receive bitcoin from anyone in the world. If you believe that a fundamental right for people is to accept payment for providing goods and services that other people are willing to pay for, then you have to accept that it’s a right to have reasonable access to banking services. Shockingly, that has not been the case for a huge portion of the world before bitcoin, the currency, came along.
BTC is a universal currency (with a market value) that anyone can use but nobody can control. If you live in NYC and are fortunate to be wealthy, have high quality credit, debit and checking services, asset allocation advice, derivatives access, tax advisors, and secured lending tools like mortgages from AAA rated banks, then bitcoin the currency is admittedly not going to be interesting to you.
But not everyone has that, and for many of us at LedgerX who read the headlines, it is puzzling that the narrative is:
1) A universal, mathematically based currency that anybody can use but nobody can control is not useful or real, but…
2) The ability to fix back office paper pushing is potentially transformative
Bitcoin is a sexy topic that has inspired a gold rush dynamic of entrepreneurs, often with little to no technology or financial expertise, trying to sell institutions “blockchain technology” as a next generation database — a panacea for all back office inefficiencies.
In the long term, how many $1B+ companies will be built on a data structure that even if useful in the proposed use cases, any number of open source SQL databases could easily adapt? We don’t think that many. How many $1B+ companies will be built on the promise of universal, open access to banking for all? We’re betting a lot.
When history is written about the great technologies of the 20th century, there will be a rightful place for the internet, which for the first time gave democratized access to the consumption and publication of information for everyone, transforming governments and education in dramatic ways. Will Bitcoin the database ever find itself at a similar stature? We don’t believe so. It is hard for us to believe that there will be even a footnote for a technology that helps multi-billion dollar investment banks streamline their legacy back office operations and improve their ROE.
If this works, it will be about a new currency, founded in mathematics, that gives access to, and participation in markets for the unbanked in a way never seen before.
Finance professionals will appreciate the value of being contrarian. When I personally see everyone fleeing away from the idea of a potentially transformative new asset class that broadens participation in capitalism, well, I’m buying more bitcoin.
bitcoin…with a lowercase b.