While the cryptocurrency market wrapped up 2018 with a slump, it’s not all doom and gloom.
We gathered comments from three prominent crypto players to get a sense of the big developments and trends they expect to see in 2019:
Paul Veradittakit, Pantera Capital
Veradittakit is a partner at Pantera Capital, one of the first cryptocurrency investment firms, where he focuses on venture capital and hedge-fund investments. Pantera has rounded up more than $120 million for its third venture fund, known as Venture Fund III, and has used the new funding to invest in projects including the digital-asset platform Bakkt, Blockfolio, StarkWare, and Synthetic Minds.
Amid tightening regulations, Veradittakit has seen a new trend emerge in the crypto fundraising space: Crypto or blockchain-related companies are raising new funds by selling new shares, rather than issuing additional tokens.
“A bunch of companies that raised capital using the initial-coin-offering structure either have managed their treasury poorly or realized that they haven’t found a strong use case for their token — they are in need of more capital and to raise an equity round,” he said.
Sign up here for our weekly “Wall Street Insider” newsletter, a behind-the-scenes look at the stories dominating banking, business, and big deals.
Crypto firms that raised money early on are going backward, fine-tuning their documentation and tightening up know-your-customer/anti-money-laundering rules to identify whether an investor is accredited, he said.
Pantera Capital has invested in more than 40 crypto and blockchain projects through its initial-coin-offering fund. The firm said in a monthly newsletter that roughly 25% of those projects might have run afoul of US securities regulations and may need to refund money to their investors, Reuters reported in December.
Veradittakit laid out three key themes he’s watching in 2019.
One is an institutionalization of the crypto space, meaning the industry is likely to see the launches of more fully regulated and licensed products, from security tokens to new crypto derivative products, serving as a bridge between institutional investors and the cryptocurrency market. In addition, custody, trading infrastructure, and data will be important for compliance and performance.
The second is tools for developers to build compliant and better user-interfacing apps. Examples include smart contract auditing and on-ramps, or ways to turn fiat currency into crypto or stablecoins.
He’s also keeping an eye on companies that are building applications on top of decentralized protocols. For example, companies that are building markets on Augur, an ethereum-based prediction market protocol that allows users to bet on the outcome of future events, from the results of the presidential election to the price of top cryptocurrencies, to get monetary rewards.
Another example is companies creating a domain service on Handshake, an ongoing cryptocurrency project backed by a slew of prominent venture capitalists in the crypto space including A16z Crypto, Boost VC, Pantera Capital, Polychain Capital and Founders Fund.
Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Crypto won’t be a haven from overall volatility in the stock market, Fred Wilson, a notable venture capitalist who cofounded Union Square Ventures, said in a blog post on January 1.
“I think we will see major dislocations in the leadership of the United States, a bear market in stocks, a weakening economy, a number of issues with the global economy including a messy Brexit and a sluggish China,” he wrote. “All of this will lead to a more cautious stance by investors in the startup economy. And crypto will not be a safe haven for any of this although there will be signs of life in crypto land in 2019.”
That said, he expects the crypto bear market to eventually bottom out sometime this year.
“I expect we will see some bullish runs, followed by selling pressures taking us back to retest the lows,” he wrote. “I think this bottoming out process will end sometime in 2019 and we will slowly enter a new bullish phase in crypto.”
Wilson also said he anticipated seeing meaningful progress and more widespread consumer adoption in areas like stablecoins, non-fungible tokens, and crypto gaming.
Anthony Pompliano, Morgan Creek Digital
Pompliano, also known as “Pomp,” is a founding partner at Morgan Creek Digital and a notable crypto Twitter personality. In November, he warned in a Medium post that a wave of crypto hedge funds could shut down because of the incentive fees structure and the prolonged crypto bear market.
Pompliano said he expected some crypto hedge funds to suffer “high water mark issues,” referring to a contractual clause that ensures “fund managers only receive their performance fee … if the fund’s net asset value is higher today than in any previous investment period.”
After peaking at $20,000 in December 2017, bitcoin has fallen below $4,000 per coin; altcoins also suffered significant losses last year.
“We have seen 50-80% decreases in net asset values in some funds since then,” Pompliano said. “This means these fund managers will not receive a performance fee in 2018, which drastically reduces the income of the individual manager.”