Bit-Curious: Crypto's Biggest Converts
The battle of minds in the crypto v fiat debate could be described as an economic cold war. But who are the biggest bitcoin converts and what made them switch sides?
Which of Bitcoin’s biggest detractors have crossed the battle lines?
Speculation about the future of Bitcoin has become a global pastime over the last few years, with outspoken critics and advocates battling it out over talking points in the mainstream media.
The war between fiat and crypto is still raging, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Proponents of fiat currency and more ‘stable’ stores of value (such as gold and other precious metals) still claim that bitcoin is a fad, volatile, and has no discernible assets to justify the value of the cryptocurrency.
That said, there have been some notable generals from the fiat army who have crossed the battle lines in recent years, stripping away the uniform of ignorance and donning the threads of a free and frictionless global currency.
Below we’ll take a look at some of the biggest critics-turned-advocates, and other bit-curious fiat fans who could be tempted over to the (winning!) side within the next few years.
In a recent broadcast with crypto advocate Anthony ‘Pomp’ Pompliano, Bitcoin investor Matt Odell admitted that when he first discovered the currency he was less than impressed: “I thought it was going to fail, I thought it could never work.”
“I jumped into it and I just tried to figure out how it couldn’t work…. The more I went down that rabbit hole I was like more and more confirmed that it would work.”
It wasn’t until the price started climbing in late 2013 that he decided to delve deeper into the subject, slowly learning of his hasty error in judgement.
Matt’s interest in sports betting and the US ban is what led to his light bulb moment, realising the value in the budding crypto currency that could be used to bypass government restrictions and allow financial freedom for users around the world.
Nowadays, Matt is a confirmed crypto advocate, writer, public speaker, and angel investor, with and regularly joins other figureheads to debate the nuances of bitcoin and other crypto currencies.
Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chair of Alibaba Group, was first known as bitcoin sceptic, once declaring that the world’s favourite crypto currency “could be a bubble”.
Nowadays it seems that the Chinese business magnate and philanthropist is much more bullish on bitcoin, and more importantly, the blockchain technology behind it, with Ma acting as an angel investor for a number of interesting blockchain-based projects.
For example, his Ant Financial services group (formerly known as Alipay) is already innovating to launch blockchain-based transfers between HK and the Philippines.
“When it comes to bitcoin, I’m not interested in it myself. What I want to know is, what can bitcoin bring to society? After some thought, I myself think that the technology behind bitcoin is tremendous, so at Alibaba and Alipay we are using it to help build our roadmap to a truly cashless society.”
Recently CNBC Host Joe ‘Squawk’ Kernen became an unlikely crypto celebrity off the back of his comments in response to Facebook’s proposed ‘Libra’ digital currency.
“This is just based on the dollar. I don’t understand it - is it called a cryptocurrency? Well it’s not.”“This Libra is just based on the dollar…. Cryptocurrencies get their value from the blockchain… Are they calling it a cryptocurrency? Well it’s not.”
This came as a surprise to some, as Kernen was historically known to be sceptical over cryptocurrencies in general, but in a recent segment of his ‘Squawk Box’ show he reinforced this new bit-curious viewpoint in regards to Bitcoin (and Libra).
“Libra is currency for corporations. Only Bitcoin is currency for the people, for the people themselves… I’m feeling like a [Bitcoin] evangelist almost,” he explained, further questioning Libra by asking “who put Facebook in charge of giving currency to the rest of the world.”
Many in the cryptosphere have seen Kernen’s flip as a sign that mainstream media outlets and fiat-focused financial journalists are beginning to understand more about what makes cryptocurrencies appealing to their user base, and how value can be attributed to digital currencies without being backed by collateral.
Kevin Roose is a technology columnist working for the New York Times, who writes about how technology, business, and popular culture interact in his regular column ‘The Shift’.
The experience left a bad taste in the mouth, and he wasn’t shy about expressing his opinions on the matter: “The Bitcoin dream is all but dead”.
Back in 2013 (the heady days of the earliest adopters!) Roose bought his first bitcoin for around $140 in what he described as “a clunky and labor-intensive process”, and after a week, sold it on for a small loss.
Flash forward to 2017 and Roose’s NYT article: ‘I Was Wrong About Bitcoin. Here’s Why.’, where he attributes his prior negativity to 5 incorrect assumptions made about the fledgling cryptocurrency, stating “today’s trading mania is just a prelude to an even bigger, more transformational era of cryptocurrency...”
Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and up until recently was a fierce proponent of gold over any sovereign stores of value.
He is quoted as stating that “bitcoin is a bubble” back in 2017, however a recently published article shows that unlike other older figureheads in the financial world, the 70 year old investor isn’t afraid to adapt to a changing market.
“Identify the paradigm you’re in, examine if and how it is unsustainable, and visualise how the paradigm shift will transpire when that which is unsustainable stops.”
In a 7000 word piece titled ‘Paradigm Shifts’ Dalio discusses the future of financial investments and hedge fund ecosystem, which is reportedly credited with encouraging many investors to shift focus and make an allocation for Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) within their portfolios.
Who are the remaining high value targets?
Despite the figures above crossing the battle lines and taking up the banner of bitcoin, there are still a number of high value targets that crypto warriors have set their sights on - the old guard of the established financial industry if you will.
One of these targets includes the notorious Warren Buffet, a man who famously described bitcoin as “probably rat poison squared”. Justin Sun, founder of the TRON cryptocurrency platform and CEO of BitTorrent, recently bid a record breaking 4.5 million dollars in a charity auction to win a private lunch with Buffet, seemingly with a view to change the ageing billionaire’s views on crypto.
Other high value targets include people such as Janet Yellen, Bill Gates, Mark Carney, and Peter Schiff. If and when you see these ‘establishment’ figures starting to shift their views you’ll know that bitcoin truly has broken down the barriers of mass adoption.