I'm going to send the email below to a group of friends who are keen to get involved in crytpo. There are five of us all-together and I'm perhaps the one who's had the most exposure to Bitcoin and alt coins by way of a separate personal crypto portfolio. My message to them below is a bit of an essay/braindump, but serves to highlight some of the choices that crypto coin/equity enthusiasts like us are facing at the moment when considering how to invest.
More background: Me and four other friends put 30% down on a 250 Mhash SCRYPT mining unit from https://alpha-t.net/
earlier in the year. It was a bit of a speculative punt to be honest and we all knew the risks. There was a good chance hardware might not even materialize, but now it looks like it will. We have a problem though or at least I think we do. If the units had been delivered on time and alt coin prices hadn't tanked there was a good chance we would have made our money back on the unit within 6-8 weeks. It now looks like it'll take at least six months to make the hardware cost back - if not longer or even at all. I think a lot of people will be in this position with delayed mining hardware from various vendors who have delivered later than promised. My view is that each person in our group would be best to write off the 30% deposit and either not invest any more or invest in a crypto equity with a more promising future and potential upside. I personally believe that BitShares X would be a better investment, particularly if one was to invest now. The remaining balance each of the five would have to pay to make up the remaining 70% is roughly $1500 each. This balance on the mining units is not due for another month or so. I'd like to think that there's a good chance that that $1500, or perhaps less, would make up for the lost 30% deposit if held long in BitShares. In my email to the group below I'm clear that I don't know that this will be the case and they'll have to do their own research and make the call for themselves.
Anyway here's the email I'm sending out in response to some questions from one of the five of us who has not really spent much time researching cryptos. I intend to send this response out to all four guys left in our five man mining hardware consortium. My intention is to put them off investing in hardware due to the shifting crypto landscape and more promising and worthy opportunities I see elsewhere - (i.e. DACs and/or BitShares X). I'd be happy to post my thoughts below to the Alpha-T's board too as an invitation for those in a similar position to discuss the issues. I don't think anyone would change my mind that investing more in the hardware is a bad idea. I think there's a good chance my musings would encourage others to weigh up their options when deciding whether paying the remaining 70% to Alpha for hardware is a good idea. They might also conclude that it make sense to now invest remaining funds elsewhere.
Apologies for not replying sooner to this email. I had not kept up with what was going on in the crypto world, but have now spent some time researching and have some views:
I don't know what to make of Alpha's enthusiastic updates. Naturally I despise their manner, the obsession with transparency, the desire to clarify - muddying the waters further. The whiff of deception is in the air - all the more pungent for the fact they seem to be trying to force the reader into thinking otherwise.
Agreed, a little irritating. Not sure if deception is involved though, perhaps more desperation as Alpha realise that more and more people are considering not paying the balances due on the mining units as the money might be better invested elsewhere in the crypto coin/equity ecosystem. But there could be deception at play I suppose, I just don't think there is (see my comment later on).
If there are this many problems in the production process, how likely is it that the machines will work smoothly without the need for detailed technical support? Do you really want to be dealing with this? I can envisage a deep well of frustration in becoming a 'happy miner'.
Problems are to be expected - they have been pioneering the invention of SCRYPT based ASIC machines and I imagine it's pretty difficult to get everything right with hardware first time on such short timescales. It’s hard enough with software. I think that when they deliver the units they will work, it would require someone like me to understand all the command line stuff and operate the units - but I think that would be fairly trivial and not too much of an issue.
But those two things are sort of irrelevant. What concerns me most is the overall effect of these production and payment issues causing a delay on the units being shipped to us on time. The delay hampers our ability to make the machines pay for themselves. At current rates the big 250Mhz unit would take about six months to pay for itself. If they had delivered on time (i.e. in July) that period would have been reduced due to the coin difficulty being lower. Look at the SCRYPT difficulty curve for Litecoin on the following link (switch to 6 month view) and you'll see that difficulty has increased somewhat:https://coinplorer.com/Charts/Difficulty?currency=LTC
If any deception is going on with Alpha, then the most likely answer could be that they are already running the ASICs built with our deposits but for themselves only. There is not exactly a sharp increase in difficulty, but difficulty has certainly accelerated somewhat since July when the units were supposed to be delivered to us. I don’t really think it’s likely that they are responsible for this though, even in part. They did say they would do all testing off of the main block-chain on a test net. My gut tells me they are an honest bunch of guys who have taken a big risk and failed to deliver on time. This does make the decision as to whether to complete the purchase a difficult one.
So we have the difficulty of the coins increasing as one negative and this is all against the backdrop of falling alt coin prices – another compounding negative. Speculation on my part, but falling prices seem to be more pronounced in those established alt coins that are based on mining (i.e. Proof of Work based cryptos) that don't provide any real innovation when compared to Bitcoin or other new non-mining based crypto equities.
You can see the mining profitability of Litecoin has reduced sharply in recent months, for an illustration of dwindling profits in the SCRYPT based mining space click:https://coinplorer.com/Charts/PriceDifficulty?fromCurrency=LTC&toCurrency=BTC[/urn]
The problem I have is - I don't have a clue what all this is about anymore. I have done no research - my readings in the financial papers would suggest one thing - it's Bitcoin or nothing for crypto currencies - I am not even sure that alt coin / bit coin relationship would be comparable to gold / silver.
I've been reading up on the whole crypto coin/equity scene again lately. This is partly due to my interest in another crypto equity, that I've held for a long time called BitShares PTS. BitShares PTS are mined but they give you the ability to convert them in to shares in DAC’s that are created later on. DACs are Distributed Autonomous Corporations and they will be created for lots of different industries and by lots of different companies. That is the vision at least. The first DAC of note to be created is by one of the main proponents of the ideas and vision behind DAC's, Invites Innovations, and it is called BitShares X. I think it has the potential to disturb the status quo and dominance of crypto currencies that are mined (Proof of Work cryptos). I’m not mentioning this because I think you should buy some – do your own research here. But I do think that these Proof of Stake based cryptos (you’ll need to read about what this means by following the links I provide later) are starting to have an effect on the crypto coin market as a whole. If they are successful they will put downward pressure on the price of all crypto coins that are mined. They may already be doing so.
So all of the below is just a little bit of a brain dump on how I think these new types of non-mined cryptos could affect things going forward, especially with respect to the price of coins that are mined such as Bitcoin and Litecoin. Some have accused these IPO style coins/equities/DACs of being glorified ponzi schemes. I think there’s more utility to them than that to say the least. I might even consider trying to run the new VR business as a DAC, not quite got my head round whether my business model is a good fit yet though. Anyway again do your own research! I’m just giving you my take on where I see things heading. I could have it all completely wrong.
So I realise that this is all a bit of shift in opinion on mining from where I stood about six months ago when we put the order in for the Alpha mining units. The facts on the ground have changed, or at least my understanding of them has, and so my opinion has also. This does not mean that speculative profits cannot be made from mining coins, but I do believe that coins that are mined have their days numbered and that there might be other opportunities elsewhere within the crypto coins/equities landscape. Perhaps opportunities that are backed by entities with more worthy intentions to boot too. I think the opportunities presented point to the potential to profit from something that creates real value vs the more speculative, somewhat opportunistic, profit that can be gained from mining crypto coins alone. This IMHO is a good thing.
I think I mentioned to at least some of you about holding and mining a crypto called ProtoShares a while back (now called BitShares PTS). These are crypto coins or shares that convert to shares in Digital Autonomous Corporations (DACs) as they are created by Invictus Innovations or 3rd parties who subscribe to the BitShares X funding model. It's important to realise that you still get to keep your BitShares PTS when the shares in your new DAC are issued. In this sense BitShares PTS have the potential to give you a stake in many DAC's once you own and hold BitShares PTS. Invictus appear to be doing something quite new in the crypto space with their first DAC of real significance BitShares X. I suggest everyone read up on what BitShares X is and about DACS in general (http://BitShares.org/faq/
). BitShares X has the potential to replace banks and centralised stock exchanges, whilst also providing the utility of a crypto coin for actual spending. Watch this 15min talk about BitShares X by Invictus Innovations founder Daniel Larimer to get some insight:http://nullstreet.com/dan-larimer-explains-BitShares/
Daniel is an extremely
bright guy. He's recently been talking to another very bright crypto pioneer called Vitalik Buterin who has created something called Etherium (https://www.ethereum.org/
- very interesting but outside the scope of this braindump – do your own research if interested). There has been talk of a potential collaboration between the two parties. With their existing teams each of these guys could shift the crypto landscape in significant ways and may already be doing so. But with the two of them and their two teams working together I think things could get even more interesting. Watch this space to see if closer collaboration starts to occur. In the longer term, alone or together, I think they both pose a real threat to the crypto status quo dominated by Proof of Work coins and to Bitcoin itself. They are, in my opinion, building a better mousetrap based on a fairer and more evenly distributed system that seems to promote value over speculation. It’s also much greener, see later point.
I agree with what Daniel says in the video above, that we're seeing a maturation of the crypto coin/equities market akin to what happened following the dot.com boom. Those that are not going to be profitable and offer something value based and or unique or useful are being shaken out of the tree. This is a good thing.
I think Delegated Proof of Stake cryptos like those that Daniel proposes and champions via BitShares X (i.e. non mining based cryptos where network is secured in a deflationary manner that all shareholders benefit from) is where things are heading and there's a good chance that it will be to the detriment of all Proof of Work based crypto coins/equities (i.e. mining based cryptos where only the miners benefit from securing the network).
I think that this is for a few reasons:
1. Despite the original intention to me massively distributed and fair, the control of coins that are mined (Bitcoin, Litecoin etc.) has increasingly been centralised in the hands of a few big mining barons and mining pools. You could count the major players on one hand and this flies in the face of the libertarian, decentralised and democratic ideals that the original Bitcoin concept stood for and that attracted many early adopters. For many of the early adopters of crypto currency/equities, myself included, a fairer more democratic and distributed system is even more important than making a profit from speculating on long term price increases and the short term fluctuations many have profited from whilst owning Bitcoins and other alts. We’ll see a shift to the fairer system for this idealistic reason alone, providing the new system or ecosystem can furnish all of the benefits that Bitcoin offers for coin holders. But that’s where it get interesting, BitShares X can provide all the benefits of Bitcoin but when coupled to BitAssets, market pegs and a distributes exchange (see point 2) it seems like it can provide much more.
2. The BitAssets and the market peg idea in BitShares X is very attractive (see the ELI5 link below for more details). If the peg works for BitUSD then this will make holding wealth in crypto much more attractive for the average person due to them being able to protect themselves from significant price fluctuations common in crypto coins/equities such as Bitcoin. People will not need to cash out of crypto in to real fiat currency if the pegs works as planned. I think this is pretty innovative stuff. People who keep their eye on the ball in crypto are starting to see the advantages and flexibility that a system like this provides. Speculation on my part, but I think we are already starting to see some money drain out of alt coins like Litecoin, (i.e. the ones that don't really provide any significant innovations over Bitcoin), and in to some of the more innovative "Crypto 2.0" Proof of Stake equities such as BitShares X and Ethereum. As people start to see the benefit and security of holding their crypto assets in something pegged to the dollar then we could see money drain out of more of the Bitcoin copy-cat alt-coins and then perhaps even Bitcoin itself. This coupled with new liquidity coming directly from fiat currencies going straight in to Proof of Stake based DACS like BitShares X for other reasons (see point 3) could lead to a very bright future for crypto equities such at BitShares X. I've always said that it might not be Bitcoin that ultimately wins popular acceptance in the Crypto coins race to widespread consumer adoption.
Read about how the decentralized exchange and market provides the ability to PEG BitShares (BTSX) against the dollar or gold or any other asset. This explanation is an ELI5 (Explain it like I'm 5) explanation of the ideas behind the system with some good detail on how the peg works. I think it’s a really big deal:https://BitSharestalk.org/index.php?topic=7628.msg101320#msg101320
3. The BitShares X distributed exchange launched only a couple of weeks ago and it has already had days where the volume of shares in $ traded has been as much as 5% of that traded for Bitcoin itself. It has overtaken Litecoin on some days in $ volume and the price has risen significantly at the same time and so this does mean money/liquidity is flowing in to the BitShares X ecosystem. I believe that some of the volume is due to savvy investors becoming aware that a distributed exchange such as BitShares X, unlike centralised exchanges, such as Bitstamp or Huobi cannot be shut down by their government. This is important to people in countries where crypto currencies have already been heavily regulated or interfered with by their governments or central banks. Chinese crypto investors who have seen their own centralised Bitcoin exchanges closed down or severely restricted by government policy now have way to trade effectively without fear of losing their money or having it frozen on the centralised exchanges. If they can get CNY into the crypto system by some means they are then free to move all of their holding to a de-centralised exchange that cannot be shut down. They can then trade at will without fear of losing their cash and they have the ability to protect profits by buying BitAssets without cashing out in to fiat. Couple this with exchanges in the US such as Crypsty who will start to accepting BitShares deposits soon as well as providing a USD gateway and you provide a way for the Chinese to move CNY to USD and bypass state regulation. Many Chinese investors are keen to do this due to restrictions on CNY flowing out of China in to other investments. But as the pegs mentioned in point 2 become better understood, you may find that more and more CNY based money just stays in the BitShares X systems pegged to USD or Gold or even CNY. I think for this reason alone we are already seeing lots of liquidity entering the BitShares X market by way of Chinese money.
4. Environmental concerns. Proof of Work costs a lot of electricity, it's really not very green at all and the CPU cycles are not (in most cases) going towards anything useful apart from minting Bitcoins. Though I believe some of the mining barons are running their operations from geothermal energy in Iceland, this is not the norm. A lot of people care about the green issues and I think this will play a part in which crypto equity people back in the longer term.
There are lots of other + points but that's enough to be getting on with for now
By the way If you’re interested and wondering where the shares come from for DACs make sure you read the link from earlier:http://BitShares.org/faq/
and this might help explain things too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaY_KIsouTY
But for a quick explanation: With a DAC such as BitShares X all of the coins or shares in the DAC are created up front. People buy BitShares PTS (formerly ProtoShares), especially on the run up to the days when a promising DAC will get created. Shares in a given DAC are issued on the day that the 'Snapshot' day has been advertised and the DAC then comes in to being. If you hold PTS at the time of the snapshot for that DAC is taken (this is advertised a bit like an IPO would be) then you get shares of the DAC relative to the amount of PTS you hold. Think of PTS as your way of buying in to the IPO of a DAC. Sometime the BitShares PTS (ProtoShares) fall in price significantly after a DAC snapshot if there are no new DACs on the horizon that people believe will be a success. For this reason BitShares PTS are at perhaps the lowest price they've been for a while at the moment - it's because there's no buzz around the latest coolest DAC. This could change quickly when someone decides to implement a great new business as a DAC and starts shouting about it. Once BitShares X takes off, which I'm certain it will, a lot of the press will prompt savvy entrepreneurs to investigate whether a DAC could be used for their business idea. The BitShares X DAC snapshot was in Feb and is considered the most innovative and promising DAC to date. This is largely due to the possibility that it might supplant the incumbent mining based Proof of Work coins (i.e. all that I’ve described above). So now that the IPO for BitShares X has effectively taken place the only way to buy shares in that DAC it is from the open market for BitShares BTSX at current market value.
I explain this because I think it discredits the notion that this is a pons scheme. These DACs should provide some real world value that as more people use them will generate benefit for the shareholders instead of just the miners. Those who were prepared to bet on a DAC being successful before it comes in to being by buying BitShares PTS at the right time stand to benefit the most from a DAC if it succeeds. They’ve also taken the most up front risk in effectively bankrolling something via the BitShares PTS before the DAC actually exists. There are new DACS coming through the pipeline all the time and you can read about them on http://BitShares.org
. So it still might be worth considering owing some BitShares PTS. I hold some at them moment.
Q. My decision turns on your view - are you really confident this is worth further investment and paying the balance to what appears to be something of a cowboy operation? It feels like they are out of their depth and clutching at straws - hence the offer to is all of having a stake in Alpha if we pay the remaining 70% balance - it does not bode well.
For myself my gut feeling is that I would rather put the money I was going to put in to mining equipment, or at lest part of it, in to one of these more innovative Proof of Stake cryptos. I think the potential upside is greater for a smaller stake and therefore less risk. Perhaps BitShares X and/or Ethereum is the right one to go for, but I really don't know. I don't know if an investment with one of these new cryptos is going to turn more of a profit over a six month period. I believe in the ideas behind DACs and especially like what BitShares X is trying to do. The values and goals behind BitShares X come from a group of people who want to build a fairer system that is open to all and not just a few. But it's a complex subject to get across to your average Joe and this could mean that it fails to attract enough people in the long term to make it a success. That said, sophisticated institutional investors who already dabble in cryptos will likely get the value of something like BitShares X straight away. So initially it might not require lots of 'Joe publics' to enter the market in order to kickstart the liquidity required for success. This way lots of liquidity may flow in to the system via more sophisticated investors initially and Jo public may follow later as the ecosystem matures.
So that’s my brain dump on where I see things are at the moment folks. I know it’s a lot to take in and I’ve probably not explained everything required for you to understand things entirely. I'm not sure I understand every facet myself. Take all my views with a pinch of salt and do your own research. My views should not be considered an encouragement to invest, you need to make those decisions for yourself. Just wanted to give you and indication as to where my thinking is at the moment.
I suggest everyone do there own research over the week or so and we take a vote on whether to proceed with the final payment to Alpha in mid September. The options I see are:
1. Buy mining units and run them and hope to make some profits in six months or more.
2. Put money in to a joint crypto fund that we all take an interest in managing and hopefully we can make our Alpha deposits back.
3 .Put money in to our own private funds that we manage personally and hopefully we can make our Alpha deposits back.
4. Take a hit on the deposit and swerve on the whole crypto thing (as a group) until things become a little clearer. Obviously potential upsides or downsides will be missed out on. 20/20 hindsight in 12 months will let us know if we did the right thing or not
On the basis of the information to date, I won't be putting any more money their way and accept that I will lose the deposit - but I am open to argument and will continue if their is strong feeling and evidence to the contrary - I also don't want to let the side down.
I tend to agree that this might be the wisest move. Any counter arguments for buying the units are welcome. My feeling is that we cut our losses and perhaps invest the funds we would have personally in crypto equities as we see fit and then manage our own portfolios. Would still be worth getting together to discuss if people are interested in doing their own research and chewing the fat over where things look like they are headed. I'm reluctant to head up a joint crypto fund, even if you guys think that's a good idea.