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Good Evening [%first_name |Dear Reader%],
Welcome to this week’s edition of Tokenised.
My interest and fascination with the crypto sector began in October 2019. A wide-eyed graduate student at the time, I noticed bitcoin ATMs popping up in an area that was severely underbanked, even though it was part of the financial capital of the world—New York City.
Back then, the emergence of an alternate channel to move money was rather exciting to me, especially one that promised significant reductions in costs and faster transaction speeds. That isn’t how things have turned out, though.
The crypto sector of today, I believe, has become a nesting ground for rampant speculation on weak fundamentals. And that edifice has crumbled as the macroeconomic environment fostered by the pandemic started to shift. Crypto remains a nascent tool in need of a few more stages of metamorphosis, and all the drama of the past few years seems nothing more than a consequence of base profit-seeking.
I am no soothsayer, but crypto in its current form has faltered in delivering utility beyond a few fringe cases. And it’s broadly for that reason that I have decided to pull the shutters down on this newsletter.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have certainly enjoyed writing it and interacting with readers of all stripes—the enthusiasts, the sceptics, and the fence-sitters. But I feel that our last few editions have been somewhat regurgitative.
There’s certainly media interest—and value—in delivering stories about how things turned as bad as they did. But that was only part of the mandate for Tokenised. When I first began writing this newsletter, the idea was to take crypto discourse beyond just the investing fervour and explore how the tech could add layers of utility to existing financial infrastructure.
While there’s been no shortage of ambitious ideas—Web 3.0, NFTs for art, monetary freedom, and nixing financial intermediaries—they have all turned out to be rather half-baked. I have no complaints or quarrels with these ambitions, but so far, the execution hasn’t inspired much confidence.
And to top it all, venture capital has thrown millions of dollars at tokens that undeniably resemble unregistered securities.
While financial systems exist for the purpose of ensuring efficient allocation of capital, and companies that do good work should be rewarded with extra capital, what ‘efficient’ means quite often turns into what makes the most money for the investor. And that’s typically when excessive capital can turn toxic, especially for a sector that hasn’t yet found its bearings.
The market capitalisation of crypto as an asset class is still pretty miniscule. And it’s unlikely to spill over and create a widespread crisis.
Between May 2020 and now, crypto’s market capitalisation grew from US$250 billion to about a trillion dollars. At its peak, crypto's market capitalisation was within touching distance of US$3 trillion., [Source: CoinMarketCap]
But for the sake of retail investors who bought into the promise, I do hope there is some sort of coming-clean from enterprises in the sector. Maybe just an honest acknowledgement of what things were, as opposed to how they seemed. But I also feel that’s me hoping for a little too much.
Anyway, some people love a good gamble and there’s nothing wrong with it. And maybe crypto will make a comeback someday when speculative feelings run high again. But I can only hope that, by then, the sector knows where to go from there, instead of just relishing a swim in an ocean of cash. Otherwise, history might not exactly repeat itself, but it will certainly rhyme.
I, for one, will be keeping a somewhat distant eye on how things pan out for crypto. But I certainly need a break from writing about it. The decision to shutter Tokenised also coincides with my departure from The Ken, so this week will also be my final one here. The year I’ve spent writing for The Ken will definitely go down as one of the highlight stints of my career.
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed finding these editions in your inbox every week. Because I have certainly relished writing for you, and in many instances, also learning from you.
With that, let’s turn to some other things that happened in crypto over the last few days.
- South Korea is probing US$3.1 billion worth of forex transactions linked to crypto-assets. [Financial Times]
- Crypto exchange Zipmex has filed for bankruptcy protection in Singapore. [Reuters]
- Dubai’s crypto shops have become an attractive destination for Russians and Iranians who struggle to move money around because of sanctions levied on their countries’ banking systems. [Bloomberg]
- Indian regulators are probing crypto exchange WazirX for alleged money laundering worth US$354 million. [The Economic Times]
- Robinhood’s crypto division has been fined US$30 million for alleged violations in New York. [The Verge]
- Troubled crypto lender Babel Finance lost US$280 million worth of crypto assets while trading customer funds. [The Block]
Now that that’s done, let me hand things over to Rohin, The Ken’s CEO, for a bit:
That’s all from Tokenised, folks. Writing this newsletter was an incredible experience for me and I hope you enjoyed reading it.