It was one year ago that I invested my yearly SEP contribution into bitcoins.
Actually, it was into something called the Bitcoin Investment Trust, which at the time was the only investment vehicle that I could find after researching options for investing qualified retirement funds into bitcoin. At the time bitcoin was trading in the $500 to $600 range.
Six months ago, I wrote about losing half of my investment in the Trust and received much “love” from those who had sympathy for me (actually I’m still looking for those comments but I’m sure that someone out there does care). I also was very clear at the time that there was no need to worry that I’d be “dumpster diving” for my next meal because I was doing what every investor needs to do — proper asset allocation. Meanwhile bitcoin was trading in the $400 to $300 range, and no one likes losing money.
My investment in the Trust and bitcoin is a small portion of my investment portfolio and considered as part of the alternative investment class of my overall investment portfolio. Some of you have gold, oil wells or real estate in that category. I prefer things less tangible (I read a lot of science fiction growing up).
So here I am, one year later. Bitcoin is trading at $230 as I’m writing this. Maybe it’s time to listen to the naysayers and realize that it’s time to give up and just recognize that bitcoin is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, a harsh trick played on people from a guy named Satoshi and little more than the outlawed game of Three-Card Monty that was so popular before Mickey Mouse invaded my beloved Times Square?
Before writing this article, I decided that before I could put the nail in my bitcoin “folly,” I wanted to get a better view of the current bitcoin landscape, so I went to the Inside Bitcoins conference in New York City to see if in fact, the end of bitcoin is around the corner, as so many commenters had said to me six months ago.
What I walked away with was a cautiously optimistic outlook on bitcoin, but an overwhelming level of respect for something called the blockchain. Without going into too many technical aspects, the blockchain is the “ledger” that all bitcoin transactions are recorded on. When you recognize that this provides a decentralized and permanent record of all of these transactions, you soon come to understand why venture capital is pouring into new ventures that use the blockchain.
New companies that are looking to use the power of the blockchain include Factom, which is a company that plans to create a method that will allow for the permanent storage of records such as land titles, medical records, books, and pretty much anything that requires being reported, through the use of the blockchain.
When I spoke with the CEO of Factom, Peter Kirby, you realize that he’s not only the “smartest guy in the room” but he’s also keenly aware of the skepticism that exists about bitcoin and the blockchain. Although there is a rush of venture capital out there for blockchain companies, Kirby has decided to also raise money for his company through a channel called Koinify, which allows anyone to invest in startups such as Factom. Kirby explains that his reasoning for seeking investors through that channel was due more to the need to build a community, rather than it being the only channel available to him.
By selling “factoids,” the Factom form of cybercurrency to new investors, Koinify allows Factom to reach a wider range of investors, who can become enthusiasts for the application, while allowing any investor to participate in the start up of a company. It does require that you purchase factoids with bitcoin, but in case you haven’t noticed, the opportunities to buy bitcoin have grown immensely from a year ago when I began my efforts to do that.
So, one year later, I’m still out over half of my original investment. Because of the structure of the investment, I can’t get out of it (although it will soon transfer into an exchange-traded fund type of investment soon and will trade on an exchange). Yet, I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing in not only the advancements around bitcoin, including the wide range of opportunities for the blockchain, as well as the level of intelligence and enthusiasm around the individuals and executives involved in the companies in this space.
There have been many comparisons between what is currently occurring with bitcoin and when the Internet first became widely known. There were intelligent and enthusiastic people at the start of the Internet days as well. Money was made and money was lost. I’m sure that will happen again (I guess I’m living proof of that).
I’m fortunate enough to be alive and around long enough to see how the Internet has been one of those rare things that actually did change the world. I look forward to seeing whether bitcoin and the blockchain can do the same thing.
Until that happens, I’d just like to see my original investment return. Hope springs eternal …
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