Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the massive Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas, along with 7,500 financial services professionals (including 750 CEOs) and 20 Bitcoin companies. I manned the Kraken Bitcoin Exchange booth, fielding questions about digital currency, the regulatory landscape, and our professional trading platform.
A hefty price-tag on sponsorships, booths, and passes weeded out many of the startups and small businesses you might see at a more low key event. The conference felt in some ways like a venue tailored for big banks and credit card companies to gain a maximum of mindshare. I'd never felt as much like a Rebel staring down the Galactic Empire as I did representing Kraken at an event like this.
The upshot is exclusivity. I'd also never met so many CEOs, founders, CFOs, etc. all in one place, and all willing to chat with me! While most companies there will not be adding Bitcoin to their services any time soon, I can report that there is certainly a growing sense of trust in Bitcoin.
Our industry has shown great resilience over the past year. While the price of bitcoin has dipped, adoption and network activity have increased month over month. I sense that many companies who last year wouldn't have touched bitcoin with a ten-foot-pole are now considering flipping their position.
2015: My crystal ball says...
One huge change from 2013 to 2014 is that you can now buy almost anything with bitcoin from a host of online retailers. BitcoinStore.com has even closed up shop stating that their mission of pressuring retailers to accept bitcoin has been accomplished. The success of B2B2C payment processors like Bitpay is a great sign of maturity and growth of the industry. However, these services are also the source of constant downward pressure on the bitcoin price.
It's fairly clear that bitcoin early adopters and investors, miners, and bitcoin entrepreneurs, have been on an extended spending spree. There must be a significant number of individuals in the community who are over-exposed to bitcoin, and who are taking the opportunity to liquidate assets by making a large amount of online purchases. This isn't something that can go on forever.
It may be too soon to tell, but price stability over the past 60 days could be suggesting that we are bucking the downtrend. Future positive industry news will inevitably continue to renew the interest of speculators, as has always been the pattern. However moving forward, I anticipate a much better balancing of the downward pressure created by retail spending.
My crystal ball gets cloudy when asked about the impacts of actions by large institutional investors...
Many investors appear to be behaving similarly to financial institutions and keeping their distance. But the stage is set. Bitcoin is on Bloomberg, the ecosystem is thriving, and price may finally be stabilizing. Attracting the attention of big mainstream players for the first time in 2015 could lead to substantial gains. If that doesn't happen, the price of bitcoin is likely to remain stable as the ecosystem continues to charge forward at its blistering pace.