Pop quiz for cryptocurrency diehards: What were the three most important years in Bitcoin's 13-year history?
If you go strictly by yearly price increases, then 2013 – when bitcoin climbed from $13 to about $1,200, an increase of more than 9,000% – would be your top pick. But ShapeShift founder Erik Voorhees, one of the earliest and most influential figures in cryptocurrency, didn't include 2013 on his list.
Voorhees was asked this question in an extensive chat about the new episode 2 of Decrypt General Motors Podcast .
His first three years? 2017, 2020 and 2021.
2017 topped the list for both price performance (Bitcoin rose 1,700% from $1,100 all the way to nearly $20,000) and the more elusive hype metrics. The image of families discussing cryptocurrencies at the Thanksgiving table became an enduring image throughout the year, with Voorhees simply saying it was the "last real bubble" before the pandemic. (Yes, even he refers to that time as a bubble.) Of course, in February 2018, Bitcoin fell off a cliff and the industry entered a period widely known as cryptocurrency winter.
Voorhees' second coming was just after that year. Cryptocurrencies are more mainstream than ever, whether you measure it by public company buying, the traditional Wall Street hedge fund giants changing their approach to cryptocurrencies, the influx of value into DeFi, or the proliferation of NFT, to name just a few corners of cryptocurrencies.
The further development of the Lightning Network, the adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador, and the NFT boom are some of the specific reasons Voorhees gives for 2021. He said. "A few years ago, if people knew a lot about cryptocurrencies, they would be embarrassed, and today I think if people don't know much about cryptocurrencies, they will be even more embarrassed. If you're going to talk intelligently about finance, it's become a requirement as well as the market and the technology."
His third year is 2020, which is a surprise, as many might have chosen 2013, when bitcoin first broke $1,000. ("It's significant, but it's still small," Wallis said.)
In 2020, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic first caused cryptocurrency prices to plummet along with stocks, and then the cryptocurrency market reversed sharply.
The initial sell-off was "another time when all the doubters and haters could say, 'Look, this stuff is nonsense, it's just a bubble and it's going to go to zero,'" Wallis said. "It gave people good reason to be dismissive of it. Within a few months, it fully recouped all those values and hit an all-time high later in the year. So 2020 and 2021 together, it's really a profound couple of years for everyone in this space."