“After two, three years of spending a lot of money on this and a lot of investment dollars going into this, I think the bigger question as an investor is: What’s the scalable revenue model and is there equity value that’s created in these businesses? And arguably the answer is: not yet.”
For evidence, Demirors points to early adapters including R3, Digital Asset Holdings and Chain, which she says are pivoting into new business models. “Most of the companies that raised massive amounts of capital in 2016, 2017 to build blockchain, they don’t exist anymore or they’ve pivoted into cryptocurrency and tokenisation,” she said.
As cryptocurrencies caught fire in 2017 and early 2018, a raft of firms – including cigar manufacturers and sports-bra makers – cashed in on the market’s love affair with the underlying blockchain technology, often using the ledger as an antidote for lacklustre stock returns. But the sudden pops often didn’t last long and many of them lost steam as the price of bitcoin and other digital assets subsequently crashed.
Data trends also show that blockchain’s been losing its fizz. In a big turnaround from years prior, the flow of cash into blockchain start-ups has dropped, according to data compiled by CB Insights. Businesses focusing on blockchain are on pace to draw $US1.6 billion ($2.3 billion) this year, down from a record $US4.1 billion in 2018, the firm said recently.
Hassan Bassiri, a portfolio manager at asset manager Arca says blockchain’s limitations are being recognised.
“Slowly what people are starting to realise is that blockchains are basically public ledgers and it’s not an efficient system. Really, there’s very few things that belong on a public blockchain,” he said on the sidelines of the conference.
“Anything that needs efficiency or speed operating probably doesn’t belong on the blockchain. And it’s crypto so everything goes through a hype cycle and we sometimes put the cart in front of the horse.”
However not everyone is convinced. Digital Assets Data co-founder and chief executive officer Mike Alfred said the technology is too entrenched in the market.
“Blockchain is the foundation of what makes the entire ecosystem work. Bitcoin’s blockchain has been running for more than 10 years without interruption. In no way is that dead,” he said.
“The current state – it feels like fatigue, it feels like trading fatigue, it feels like a lot of people are tired because we’ve been in this space and everybody is waiting for the space to grow up and for good things to happen. And it’s just taking longer than most people expected but in no way does that mean the space is dead.”