Bitcoin has been the top-performing currency in the world in six of the past seven years, climbing from zero to a new high value of about $1,600.
But the cryptocurrency isn't anywhere close to its potential, according to Jeremy Liew, the first investor in Snapchat, and Peter Smith, the CEO and cofounder of Blockchain.
In a presentation sent to Business Insider, the duo laid out their case for bitcoin exploding to $500,000 by 2030.
Their argument is based on increased interest in bitcoin, thanks to:
Remittance transfers, or electronic money transfers to foreign countries, have almost doubled over the past 15 years to 0.76% of gross world product, data from the World Bank shows.
"Expats sending money home have found in bitcoin an inexpensive alternative, and we assume that the percentage of bitcoin-based remittances will sharply increase with greater bitcoin awareness," the two said.
Liew and Smith said increased political uncertainty in the UK, US, and developing nations would help elevate the level of interest in bitcoin.
"We believe bitcoin awareness, high liquidity, ease of transport, and continued market outperformance as geopolitical risks mount will make bitcoin a strong contender for investment at a consumer and investor level," the two said.
Liew and Smith said the percentage of noncash transactions would climb from 15% to 30% in the next 10 years as the world becomes more connected through smartphones.
The global smartphone penetration rate is 63%, and the total number of smartphone users is expected to increase by 1 billion by 2020. The GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, says 90% of these users will come from developing countries.
This would make it possible for nearly everyone to have a bank in their pocket, and that should provide a boost for bitcoin as well. Liew and Smith say bitcoin could account for 50% of all noncash transactions.
Here are the basic model drivers Liew and Smith used:
- A bitcoin price of $1,000 in 2017.
- Network users will grow by a factor of 61 from now until 2030. "Put another way, we need a population of bitcoin users around a quarter of the Chinese population (or 5% of the global population) in 2030 to see bitcoin at $500k," Liew and Smith told Business Insider.
Bitcoin's user network grew from 120,000 users in 2013 to 6.5 million users in 2017, or by a factor of about 54, and this could be just the beginning. Growth of that magnitude would mean 400 million users in 2030.
- The average value of bitcoin held per user will hit $25,000. "As institutional investor cash in bitcoin, sophisticated investors trading bitcoin, and bitcoin-based ETFs proliferate, we think the average bitcoin value held will increase to around $25k per Bitcoin holder," Liew and Smith said. Currently, with bitcoin's market cap of $16.4 billion, each of its 6.5 million users holds $2,515 worth of bitcoin on average.
- Bitcoin's 2030 market cap is decided by the number of bitcoin holders multiplied by the average bitcoin value held.
- Bitcoin's 2030 supply will be about 20 million.
- Bitcoin's 2030 price and user count will total $500,000 and 400 million, respectively. The price was found by taking the $10 trillion market cap and dividing it by the fixed supply of 20 million bitcoin.
But a lot could go wrong, too. News surrounding bitcoin has been rather negative as of late.
China, which is responsible for nearly 100% of trading in bitcoin, has been cracking down on trading. The three biggest exchanges recently announced a 0.2% fee on all transactions and blocked withdrawals from trading accounts.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission also rejected two bitcoin exchange-traded funds and will rule on another one in the future. It's not expected to be approved.
However, Smith says bitcoin is still in its early stages.
"The SEC's ruling wasn't a surprise to us," he told Business Insider. He said that "getting that sort of approval" could take a long time.
"In the meantime, bitcoin is already simple to buy and hold, and as the asset continues to mature, we'll continue to see an increase in the development and deployment of surrounding products," he said.
And while bitcoin hasn't been granted regulatory approval in the US, it is catching on elsewhere. On April 1, the cryptocurrency became a legal payment method in Japan.
Another threat to its future is developers who are threatening to set up a "hard fork," or alternative marketplace for bitcoin. This would result in the split of into bitcoin and bitcoin unlimited. However, Smith isn't worried.
"Bitcoin has strong economic incentives to prevent this," he said. "If the last two years of healthy contention and debate lead to a conclusion, it's that bitcoin is incredibly resilient and stable. In fact, the bitcoin blockchain has operated for seven-plus years with no downtime, a feat no other back-end system operating at this scale can claim."
But the cryptocurrency sees violent price swings uncommon among the more traditional currencies. Bitcoin rallied 20% in the first week of 2017 before crashing 35% on word that China was cracking down on trading.
The cryptocurrency has regained those losses and is trading up about 67% so far this year.
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