After the bitcoin boom: hard lessons have hit cryptocurrency investors


The number of people who bought virtual currencies more than doubled last winter. For people who arrived late, the bust was disastrous.

SAN FRANCISCO – Pete Roberts of Nottingham, England, was one of the many at risk who threw their savings into cryptocurrencies when prices were passing the roof last winter.

Now, eight months later, the $ 23,000 invested in several digital tokens is worth around $ 4000 and has a clear view of what happened.

"I was too caught up in the fear of losing and trying to make a quick buck," he said last week. "The losses have practically left me financially ruined."

Roberts, 28, has a lot of company. After the last round of big price declines, many cryptocurrencies have returned all the huge gains they experienced last winter. The value of all the digital tokens in circulation has decreased by about $ 600 billion, or 75%, since the January peak, according to data from the site

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Virtual currency markets have gone through booms and busts before and have started to expand again. But this failure could have a more lasting impact on the adoption of technology because of the huge number of ordinary people who invested in digital tokens in the last year and probably will associate cryptocurrencies with financial ruin for a time. very long.

"What Joe's average hears is how friends have lost their fortunes," said Alex Kruger, a former banker who has long traded in cryptocurrency markets. "Irrational exuberance leads to financial swings and slows progress."

It's hard to know how many cryptocurrency investors are now in red, with stakes that are worth less than the money they put. Many who have lost money in recent months have entered the markets before the big run last year and their holdings are worth even more than their initial investments.

But for many metrics, more people invest money in virtual currencies last fall and winter than all the previous nine or so years. Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency broker in the United States, doubled the number of customers between October and March. The startup Square has begun to allow users of its mobile app, Square Cash, to buy bitcoins last November.

I thought that my family and I could escape the difficulties and live more comfortably, but the opposite was revealed. "- Kim Hyon-jeong, a 45-year-old teacher

Almost all new customers on Coinbase and Square would be in red if they had bought cryptocurrencies in almost all the points of the last nine months and had held them back.

The damage could be particularly negative in places like South Korea and Japan, where there was a minimal cryptocurrency activity before last year, and where ordinary investors with little experience they joined the abandonment.

In South Korea, major exchanges have opened shop windows to make it easier to invest for people who did not feel comfortable doing it online. The offices of a large stock exchange, Coinone, only had one customer walk during a two-hour period in the middle of last week's day. One employee, Yu Ji-Hoon, said: "The prices of digital tokens have decreased so much that people seem to feel shocked."

Kim Hyon-jeong, a 45-year-old teacher and mother of one who lives on the outskirts of Seoul, said he put about 100 million won, or $ 90,000, in cryptocurrencies last fall. He attracted savings, an insurance policy and a loan of $ 25,000. Its investments have fallen by around 90 percent.

"I thought cryptocurrencies would be the one and only discovery for normal and hard-working people like us," he said. "I thought that my family and I could escape the difficulties and live more comfortably, but it turned out the opposite."

In the United States, Charles Herman, a 29-year-old businessman in Charleston, South Carolina, became obsessed with virtual currencies in September. He said that he now felt he had wasted 10 months of his life trying to play in the markets.

While he essentially returned to the $ 4,000 he put, he has soured the revolutionary promises that virtual currency enthusiasts have been doing for technology last year and has begun to invest his money in real estate.

"I think I thought we would be" glued to the man "when I got on board," Herman said. "But I think" the man "had already taken hold and had an exit strategy."

Much of the anger that investors feel is towards the smaller virtual currencies, or alt coins, that the entrepreneurs sell in the so-called initial offers of coins. These coins should have served as payment mechanisms for the new software that the entrepreneurs were building.

But almost none of these companies delivered the software they promised, leaving the tokens useless, if not as speculative resources. Several coins have been exposed as definitive scams.

"I think I'd like to see most of the monsters go to zero before they feel that the whole space is not too expensive," Herman said.

Bitcoin has generally held better with investors. It is down about 70 percent from historic highs, rather than 90 percent losses that have suffered lesser-known digital tokens. But even this has struggled to take much advantage of speculative investments

"We have also seen that bitcoin is not ready for mass adoption and daily use," Herman said.

Despite this pessimism, social networks where cryptocurrency fanatics gather to exchange information are full of people talking about their intention to keep their coins in the hope that they will recover once the technology has time to recover in even.

Tony Yoo, 26, a financial analyst in Los Angeles, invested more than $ 100,000 of his savings last fall. At their lowest point, its positions have lost almost 70% in value.

Ma Yoo is still a big supporter of the idea that these tokens can provide a new way to make online transactions, without the big business intermediaries we rely on today. Many of the groups that raised funds last year are still working on the products they have promised, with a lot of serious engineers designed for the projects.

"There's a lot more behind this new wave of technology and innovation that I'm sure will take control of our company in due course," Yoo said.

With low prices, he said he was actually trying to put more money in the markets.

That reflection was encouraged by the people who invested in bitcoins in 2013, when for the first time it exceeded $ 1,000. That market was followed by an incident in which the price of bitcoin fell by more than 80%. But after a long period of rest, the price recovered. Even with recent losses, the value of a bitcoin is around $ 6,500 – more than 500% compared to the peak of 2013.

"Five years ago I was broke, unemployed and I was ashamed to use my real name, "Ryan Selkis, a popular virtual currency personality, wrote on Twitter last week. "For the new fanatics, your 14-month downdraft remains, 85% and you will not regret it."

Twitter is also full of complaints, like that of a user named @Notsofrugaljoey, who wrote: "It's really hard stomach to lose all my hard-earned money." Just broke and cried. "

On Reddit, a user in the United Arab Emirates has published a photo of the $ 100,000 loan that he had subscribed in December to buy cryptocurrencies – and that he will now pay his salary again for the next three years.

Roberts, the British investor who has seen most of his $ 23,000 gone, is holding his coins in case they turn around. But for now he has stopped trading and is looking for another job.

"I am living on the small savings that have remained in my bank account," Roberts said. "I made a mistake and now I will unfortunately have to pay the costs for the next few years."

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