Latest elite hopes the coin won't drop

Editorial | Mary Ma 16 Apr 2021

The debut of Coinbase on Nasdaq may be viewed as a milestone in the history of cryptocurrencies - even though it is not the first crypto exchange to trade in bitcoin and other cryptos.

Without much effort on Wednesday, Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong easily edged up to become one of the world's wealthiest and youngest individuals.

Such miracles have long been hailed as only possible in "Dreamland" America.

Others before Armstrong include names like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, Tesla inventor Elon Musk and Zoom creator Eric Yuan.

Following the market listing of Coinbase, the 38-year-old former Airbnb software engineer immediately ranked among peers of this exclusive club.

There were other names - but they mostly eventually burst like fireworks.

It's a very competitive small circle of elites. Can Armstrong survive long enough to have the last laugh after an extremely spectacular debut of his flagship crypto platform?

This will depend on a range of questions and answers of which the most primary of all is, perhaps, how far cryptocurrencies can go from where they are currently to becoming widely accepted for use - not only popularly in the criminal world but also in normal daily trading.

Bitcoin has come a long way since its inception in 2008 by someone whose true identity remains a mystery.

In the beginning, the value of a bitcoin was about the as a high-street pizza but it is now worth in the region of US$60,000-plus (HK$466,000) per coin.

That's amazing growth - stronger than any of the hard currencies circulating in the world.

There are other cryptos but they are of much less value compared to bitcoin.

As long as demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continues to exist, Armstrong can relax and sit back to bet on gains from his Coinbase platform that ironically earns US dollars by charging each crypto transaction a service fee.

In other words, the more valuable the cryptos are, the deeper his pocket becomes.

On the first day, Coinbase traded like a roller coaster - opening substantially above its reference share price of US$250 and hitting an intraday high of US430 before sloping down to a low of US$118 - only to charge uphill again to close the day at around US$328.

The notoriety of crypto-volatility was mirrored 100 percent in Coinbase.

Interestingly, a Reuters photo featuring the Coinbase debut highlighted ladies in executive suits keeping one eye at the index board and another on the smartphone.

It seems that women have grown more adventurous than their opposite sex nowadays.

There are known risks associated with cryptocurrencies.

For example, crypto-mining had been feverish in the private sector in China but these private activities have largely been cracked down on.

Instead, the state is taking the lead in developing a new crypto in the Chinese style.

The US is also studying the feasibility of issuing an official digital currency.

It is only a matter of time before private crypto activities are regulated. By then, Armstrong may have to give up his club membership.

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