As we enter into 2018 it is clearly impossible to ignore Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency for that matter. They have broken into everyday discussions on financial markets. Not only does Bitcoin now regularly flash across your TV screen on financial media but there are two Bitcoin futures contracts and a large number of ETF applications. There are clearly true believers in cryptocurrencies and they were incredibly well rewarded last year. There are those who shout bubble, but have been shouting bubble since Bitcoin was below $100 and are becoming reminiscent of people walking the streets with ‘the end is nigh’ placards. In between are those who are merely dabbling, those who are reluctant but feel compelled to be involved, to those who quite frankly seem to like the adrenaline rush.
As I have been trying to think about where people are in terms of adoption of Bitcoin, I thought of the Kubler-Ross model (link).
Denial. There are still some who just ignore Bitcoin. They don’t hate it, they just don’t see it as relevant. Anything else that has a total market cap this large would resonate for them, but they continue to believe that they can function perfectly well, while ignoring cryptocurrencies, despite them having an ever more obvious influence on markets.
Anger. Anyone still starting bitcoin articles with Tulips in the title is just angry. The person carefully crafting charts plotting other historical bubbles against Bitcoin is angry. Googling Sir Isaac Newton to see how much he lost in the South Sea Bubble is just anger. Talking about how ‘its only paper’ money or forwarding articles detailing how you might be worth $X million on paper but that you can’t spend a bitcoin is just stuck in anger and not helping themselves.
Bargaining. Grudgingly admitting that ‘blockchain’ the technology might be useful but that doesn’t mean Bitcoin will be. Arguing that Bitcoin is the MySpace of digital currencies and when the Facebook is created, you will buy that. Deciding that if Bitcoin goes back below $1,000 you will buy – just in case.
Acceptance. It really isn’t too late. If you think about it, there are only futures on Bitcoin. ETFs haven’t launched. I know Joe – the old fool – doesn’t even have a Coinbase account and still thinks a wallet is made of leather! Yeah, I might have missed some of this, but there is a lot more opportunity to come. I might have missed the first wave or second wave, but it was really risky back then. Now, it seems so obvious in hindsight and it really isn’t that late.
I don’t know where you are in this model, but I suspect that the last 2 months have seen a lot of people reach ‘acceptance’ and while there are more people at earlier stages, who can all eventually become adopters, I think they are stuck and near term adoption will be slow (which I think is evidenced by what I view as underwhelming performance of the futures contracts so far – not in terms of price – but in terms of volumes and liquidity).
For those who do view Bitcoin as a bubble, this model is actually helpful as it helps explain how people get from the point of not caring to buying – which is a key ingredient to any bubble and I think the last time I used this model was in 2007 regarding housing.