Steindorff: The most significant and noticeable disruption will stem from the disintermediation of trusted third parties. Decentralized smart contracts will have far reaching implications beyond the financial segment and will eliminate the need for third parties in most industries including insurance, energy, real estate, medical, travel, and governance. In theory, entire cities, states or countries could run autonomously via programmable, trustless smart contracts, but in reality that future is a ways off until we solve some of the scaling and security challenges.
If you're looking for the perfect time to invest in bitcoin, you're just not going to find it. There are professional analysts who haven't been able to pin down where bitcoin will go. That unpredictability can certainly make it tempting, though. Mark Cuban's thoughts on bitcoin have gone back and forth, but his approach to investing in it is sound: only if you can spare some cash, and don't go overboard. The bitcoin market is the ultimate in high risk, high reward.
We have several financial institutions trying to get an ETF to market, while thus far all have been shot down by the SEC, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) seems to have the best shot to win approval due to their long-term reputation of excellence, new product innovation, and there bulletproof insurance. If any bitcoins get stolen, you can bet the customers are well covered. Many were counting on the SEC approving an ETF this month, but it will likely not happen until the beginning of 2019, but when it does, that’s when the real fireworks will begin.
Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust based model. Completely non-reversible transactions are not really possible, since financial institutions cannot avoid mediating disputes.
You can see the present difficulty of mining bitcoin here. It should be evident from a half-second glance that the amount of computing power working to mine bitcoin right now is immense, and the difficulty is proportionally similarly immense. As of the time of this writing right now, there are close to 5 billion billion hashes per second being run to try to find the next block of bitcoin.
Steindorff: In 2014 my business partner, Tucker Waterman and I drove to San Francisco to attend Coin Congress. The conference was primarily dominated by Bitcoin maximalists, a colloquial term for those who believed bitcoin would be the only successful blockchain based digital-asset. Simultaneously, there was a small minority group of about a dozen of us with a brewing excitement about the prospect of BTC 2.0. All 12 of us grabbed lunch during the conference and discussed the prospect of alternative digital-asset backed protocols leveraging blockchain technology to establish use cases beyond a medium of exchange, unit of account or store of value. Among these fringe thinkers was Ethereum founder, Vitalik Buterin.
While the number of companies and industries that allow cryptocurrencies to be used to pay for goods and services is constantly increasing (you can use Bitcoin to pay for some things on Expedia and Microsoft, for example), the vast majority of people who buy Bitcoin or other popular cryptocurrencies still primarily use them as long-term investments. Cryptocurrencies are a new market (Bitcoin was first introduced less than a decade ago) and therefore an extremely volatile investment. In this pricing graph from Coindesk, you can see how the price of Bitcoin has fluctuated since it first debuted almost a decade ago, down to daily changes in value.
While futures products still carry unique and often significant risks, they can potentially provide a more regulated and stable environment to provide some exposure to bitcoin as a commodity as well. You should carefully consider whether trading in bitcoin futures is appropriate for you in light of your experience, objectives, financial resources, and other relevant circumstances.