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With the recent surge in cryptocurrency, it has an opportunity to demonstrate that it has learned its hard lessons from history


It’s been over a week now since Bitcoin’s jump to around $35,000 and, for now, crypto is holding its recent gains even as the broader tech sector has slumped. The bullish vibes have been driven by impending ETFs that are expected to drive billions of dollars of new capital into the crypto market, and also by a newfound optimism in the industry as the destruction wrought by Sam Bankman-Fried—whose trial likely wraps up this week—recedes into the past. In short, the good times are back.

If a new crypto boom is indeed underway, it will likely see a fresh wave of speculative investment as people look for the hot new thing. It will also be a test to see if the crypto industry learned anything from the last boom-and-bust cycle, which saw Bitcoin soar to almost $70,000 and brought innovations like NFTs and DeFi—but also the rise of charlatans like Bankman-Fried, Terra’s Do Kwon, and Celsius’s Alex Mashinsky.

The widespread frauds that came with the 2021 bull market offer valuable lessons, if only the industry can heed them. The biggest of these is the need for skepticism when it comes to leaders. Much of the misery last time around came about because people took it on faith that the likes of Bankman-Fried and Kwon were geniuses rather than demanding to see their companies’ financial figures. Trust but verify and all that.

A further lesson from the last boom is that crypto entrepreneurs must build products that a broad base of consumers want to use. The crypto industry needs founders willing to do the hard work of finding product-market fit, rather than simply dumping a useless token on the market in order to get rich and party on the conference circuit. If crypto is going to catch on for real, it needs to be as accessible as the social media and online banking tools that ordinary consumers use every day.

A final test of whether the crypto industry has learned from the past comes in the form of attitude. In the past, too many blockchain believers have behaved like jerks—getting in petty fights with rival crypto projects and blowing off skeptics with the charming phrase “have fun staying poor.” Drama and eccentricity will always be part of crypto—that’s part of the fun—but it’s also well past time that crypto natives act like grownups when it comes to both regulators and investors.

It’s too soon to say if the current boom is the start of a new breakout moment that will launch a new era of crypto. But if crypto veterans want to show the rally is for real, they will have to show they have become not just older but wiser too.

Jeff John Roberts
[email protected]
@jeffjohnroberts

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Sam Bankman-Fried, who will be cross-examined on Monday, testified he was too busy to oversee subordinates like his former girlfriend whom he blamed for much of FTX's undoing. (Fortune)

The Winklevii's Gemini sued bankrupt Genesis to block it from selling shares of GBTC—which have soared on recent ETF news—in order repay any creditors other than Gemini Earn. (Bloomberg)

A new profile of Terra founder Do Kwon's final days on the run notes he was tripped up fleeing Montenegro by a Europol notice, and that he named his daughter after one of his Ponzi-coins, Luna. (WSJ)

The crypto sector in India is hoping the rise in Bitcoin leads the government to modify a crushing tax that drove 95% of trading volume to offshore platforms. (Bloomberg)

Sam Bankman-Fried said he didn't want to be "the Kansas City Royals of crypto exchanges" while explaining his sports marketing strategy. (WSJ)

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