Hi, this is Olga. Onstage at Miami’s cryptocurrency conference earlier this month, pundit Max Keiser repeatedly yelled what’s become a familiar refrain among the crypto faithful: “F— Elon.”
On Twitter, hashtags with that and similar phrases have gained traction. T-shirts bearing the slogans abound. Someone created a website for the haters, there are multiple related coins, and dedicated Telegram groups have amassed thousands of followers.
Fueling the vitriol is, of course, Musk’s unprecedented power over cryptocurrencies’ market cap. Earlier this year the billionaire sent Bitcoin prices to record highs when he announced that Tesla Inc. was an investor. A few months later, he tweeted that Tesla would not accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars due to its environmental footprint—helping drive a crypto selloff of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Musk’s every tweet has the potential to sway markets. On Sunday, when Musk tweeted that Tesla would allow Bitcoin purchases if Bitcoin gets cleaner, the coin rallied more than 10%.
“Crypto people hate that we are somehow beholden to Elon’s views,” said Nic Carter, a general partner at Castle Island Ventures, which invests in crypto startups. “It feels unfortunate that we are so exposed to one man’s opinions. This is a global market—there are tens of millions of market participants.”
For the many cryptocurrency enthusiasts hoping to extricate Bitcoin’s market value from Musk’s whims, the solution is to get bigger: “The main takeaway for me is that the crypto economy needs to outgrow the influence of any one person as quickly as possible,” said Lex Sokolin, global fintech co-head at ConsenSys. In a tweet, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, chief executive officer of world’s biggest crypto exchange, Binance, wrote: “As more people join the industry and market cap of crypto gets larger, the effect of one individual will diminish.”
Ironically, to outgrow Musk’s influence, the industry may have to listen to him, Carter said. The next spurt of the industry’s growth will likely be driven by corporate investors and sovereign states. Nearly 90% of publicly traded companies have environmental, social and governance initiatives in place, followed by 79% of venture and private equity-backed companies, and 67% of privately owned companies, according to a recent global survey.
To cater to these potential new holders of Bitcoin, a handful of crypto miners, whose computers support the coin’s network, created the Bitcoin Mining Council, which will work to promote the use of green energy for generating Bitcoin. The council’s formation was partly spurred by Musk, who was involved in an early setup call for the group.
Musk’s influence could also potentially be diffused by the entrance of other major executives wading into crypto. But that, too, could take awhile. Because the crypto markets are so volatile, many companies have largely stayed on the sidelines.
“It’s not Musk’s fault, he just happens to be one of the three richest people in the world with a great reputation for seeing the future,” said crypto investor Aaron Brown, who also writes for Bloomberg Opinion. “I don’t think anyone likes this, unless they’re making money from retail exchange. But I don’t believe it has much long-term effect on crypto, and I think it will fade as the sector matures.”
Questions over the future of crypto won’t be settled by Musk’s tweets. “It’s pointless to be mad about it,” Brown said. —Olga Kharif
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