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George Ronan
George Ronan
Articles (67) 

Here's a Look at The Different Exposure Types Available in the Cryptocurrency Space

As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have become more popular, investors are looking for ways to gain exposure

January 23, 2018 | About:

The cryptocurrency space has been a wild ride over the last 12 months. During the early part of 2017, bitcoin and its cryptocurrency counterparts, as well as the blockchain concept on which they rest, remained a relatively obscure technology -- bought, sold, used and integrated by only a select number of early adopters.

Fast forward to the start of 2018, however, and the picture is entirely different.

Companies like NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA) have gained strength on the back of increased demand for chip technologies, which are used to mine cryptocurrencies and, on the back of the mining process, confirm transactions across cryptocurrency networks.

Recently, Eastman Kodak Company (NYSE:KODK) gained strength on some news hitting press detailing its intentions to launch its own cryptocurrency and use it as the foundation for an image publishing rights platform.

But these are only the tip of the iceberg as far as global technological impact is concerned.

Perhaps most notable among the list of changes that the onset of blockchain technology has brought with it is the way that startup technology companies are raising capital. This is changing from the traditional venture capital (VC) route to that of an initial coin offering (ICO) based raise, so-called based on its similarity to initial public offerings (IPOs).

In an ICO, a company issues a token that is (often loosely) linked to its operational expansion in return for startup and development/operational capital from ICO participants (generally, individual investors).

Some of the most successful ICOs have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of weeks, with notable examples including Tezos, which raised $232 million in July last year, and Filecoin, which raised $257 million a few months later in September.

For every successful initial coin offering, of course, there is another that isn't quite so successful or that fails to meet its own targets when the capital it raised is put to use operationally.

When this happens, participants will often be left holding the tokens that they picked up as part of any offering, waiting for long-term growth but unable to utilize the tokens in the meantime for any other purpose.

Just as the industry has advanced considerably in its comparatively short lifetime, however, we are now seeing certain technologies being put in the place that solve this issue.

MoxyOne, for example, has developed a platform that allows token holders (anybody that bought ICO tokens as part of an initial offering) to spend these tokens in the real world at any point of sale that accepts credit or debit cards.

The platform utilizes a liquidity provision function that allows the holder of the tokens (i.e., the person who is wanting to pay for a good or service at the point of sale) to exchange the tokens in question for a proportionally amount of fiat currency (local to the point of sale retailer) instantly, meaning he or she can then pay in local fiat without the retailer ever having to handle cryptocurrency (or, indeed, without them even realizing that the buyer initiated the transaction by converting his or her cryptocurrency to the seller's local fiat).

MoxyOne has issued its own cryptocurrency and debit card based on this technology but is also offering it as a white label service to other companies, which is where this technology could really have an impact – there are billions of unused tokens sitting in user wallets right now that could put to use through a system like that which MoxyOne has created.

So how can investors looking to gain an exposure to the cryptocurrency space or the ICO sector do so without having to take on too much risk?

There are a number of options available right now.

At the top of the list from a reduced risk perspective are companies such as the above mentioned NVIDIA, which is a sort of cryptocurrency hardware play, or Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), which is a very similar type of exposure.

Moving down the list, Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC) is a fund type stock that seeks to track the price of bitcoin and that is currently looking for an ETF listing through the SEC (in a similar way as the Winklevoss twins are looking to list their Coin ETF). GBTC is trading at a small premium to NAV right now but offers an exposure to bitcoin without an individual having to buy and store bitcoin, which to some degree justifies the premium.

Then there are direct cryptocurrency purchases. To reduce the risk here it's probably best to stick with the more well-known (and, by proxy, more transparent) coins on the market. CoinMarketCap's top 10 by market capitalization is a great place to start.

Finally, there are ICOs.

These are unregulated at the moment, meaning they are risky allocations, but at the same time, they offer a large potential for reward if an investor can pick the right token.

All said, this remains something of a high-risk space right now and as illustrated by the sharp correction in the price of some of crypto's flagship coins over the last few days, it can be a real rollercoaster, even for those that stick to the leading allocations.

As such, it's important to keep personal risk preference in mind and to diversify across the exposure types (and, just as importantly, ensure that any cryptocurrency positions are part of a portfolio that's diversified across more traditional financial asset groups), when taking the plunge.

Disclosure: the author has no positions in any of the companies mentioned in this piece.

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