Crypto Craze: Towards A Bursting Bubble?

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Cryptocurrencies had an incredible year in 2017: Bitcoin jumped more than 1,300%, Ethereum rallied 8,600%, and the overall cryptocurrency market rose to nearly US$650 billion by the end of the year, an astronomical 3,720% increase compared with January’s “tiny” US$17 billion market capitalization.

2017 was the year that smaller, lesser known altcoins such Ripple, Stellar and IOTA were brought under the media spotlight, thanks to the enormous returns these generated: Ripple rose 37,000%, Stellar 17,000%, and IOTA 450%.

The so-called crypto craze brought a new wave of investors and fresh cash into the space which have been pushing the overall market to new highs. The crypto frenzy is both exciting for crypto enthusiasts who argue that awareness of blockchain is rising and worrisome as many industry observers are warning of an imminent bubble burst.

The excitement is truly palpable: everybody wants to be part of the movement; nobody wants to be left out; and now, even the most unlikely companies are jumping in, adding the “blockchain” buzzword to their names only to see their stock prices skyrocket.

Bioptix’s shares jumped 400% after the company changed its name to Riot Blockchain and reported it was looking at ways to get into the cryptocurrency business. Blockchain Industries (formerly Omni Global Technologies) and Long Blockchain (formerly Long Island Iced Tea – yes, an iced tea company) saw similar rises when they changed their names.

Kodak is the latest firm to enter the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, announcing earlier this week the so-called KodakOne platform and its KodakCoin cryptocurrency. Its stocks jumped 125% the day after the news broke.

“I think the majority of announcements that we’ve seen are publicity stunts, or perhaps a last-ditch strategy to remain relevant in the case of Kodak. It’s promising to see mainstream companies buying into the idea of blockchain, and the stock market clearly has a huge thirst for the technology,” Kyle Forkey, founder of blockchain startups Moria and Ethmint, told CoinJournal.

“This is reminiscent of the dot-com bubble, where companies playing this type of name game went from 13 in 1998 to 126 in 1999. I envision 2018 in cryptocurrency being very similar to the dot-com era in 1999. Whether this means we’re two years away from the bubble bursting is anyone’s guess, but consolidation of the industry around serious, vetted projects would be a welcome sign of future stability.”

On Wednesday, billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet warned that the euphoria over cryptocurrencies “will come to a bad ending,” although he could not say when that will happen.

“In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending,” Buffett said in a CNBC interview.

Buffett’s longtime partner and right-hand man Charles Munger, also on CNBC, compared the Bitcoin frenzy to the dot-com bubble in 2000.

During a University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business event back in December 2017, Munger called Bitcoin “total insanity” and advised to avoid it “like the plague.”

For Da Hongfei, the founder of Chinese Ethereum rival NEO, the cryptocurrency bubble is real but the market will eventually recover afterwards.

“It’s a very speculative market, some people claim it’s the biggest bubble in human history,” he told Bloomberg. “I think it’s possible that there will be a crash in the market, in the whole crypto market […] I have been in this market for more than six years, so we’ve seen lot of crashes […] It’s normal and every time after the crash, if a project, a team is really focused on technology, they will recover.”

But before then, Kyle Forkey believes there will be plenty of multinationals that will jump on the blockchain and cryptocurrency bandwagon “simply because the stock market responds so well to these types of pivots.”

“Whether this pans out in the long run depends on the quality of the product being introduced, if there even is a product at all. I imaging that companies who are just looking for a quick stock bump will not see salvation simply by rebranding with the blockchain,” he said.

“If 2017 was the year that blockchain really gained traction, 2018 is the year when blockchain related companies explode in number.”