Last week, I reached out to some professional crypto fund managers I know in Russia to give me their top crypto investments so I could get in on the action. One of the names that came up had also been mentioned by others I have not spoken to before, but everyone seemed to be on the same page: Polkadot (DOT) was the new altcoin everyone loved. It had all the right moves.
The Swiss-born “blockchain of blockchains” is often said to be an Ethereum killer. Ethereum (ETH) is the most highly traded cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.
But little known Polkadot has steamrolled it over the last month in terms of gains, up over 88% to Ethereum’s 50%.
Ethereum still seems to be the one true altcoin to Bitcoin. No one has stolen its thunder. Can Polkadot take some of that?
“Yes. Definitely. I believe Polkadot is in prime position to take over the altcoin space currently occupied by Ethereum,” says Denko Mancheski, CEO & Co-Founder of Reef Finance. They are integrated into Polkadot. “This is because of the slow pace of development within the Ethereum blockchain,” he says adding in words that only serious, full-time crypto investors and developers know, like “sharding” and “staking”.
Delays have continued to weigh on Ethereum, the blockchain developers love most created by Vitalik Buterin, a Russian-born programmer living in Canada. He launched Ethereum in 2014 after dropping out of the University of Waterloo.
Polkadot was founded by the Web3 Foundation in Switzerland and is an open-sourced, decentralized web created by ex-Ethereum CTO Gavin Wood, Robert Habermeier and Peter Czaban.
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What makes it different than Ethereum?
If you think that Bitcoin only knows how to transfer value between its participants, then Ethereum knows how to do it too, but they also know how to run complex computational tasks to run a program that will execute different functions. It’s the computer programmer geek’s Bitcoin.
The problem with Ethereum is that it runs on something called GAS. Because you need to pay GAS for every computational task and the more complex it is, the more expensive it is. Ethereum can get expensive for developers. If Ethereum is like a highway, then the programs that developers create on that highway have to pay a GAS price, which is basically a traffic congestion charge.
Sticking with the highway analogy, Polkadot is like having multiple highways, each can be built to serve a specific purpose for specific applications.
Polkadot serves as a protocol for protocols or a blockchain for blockchains, industry experts tell me. There is also the option to interact with other blockchains that are part of the Polkadot ecosystem. That saves money and resources, but it also gives developers access to the Polkadot community instead of building their own community to hype up new coin-funded projects. Polkadot simplifies the innovation process and takes the burden off having to build everything from scratch.
“Most of the people using Polkadot are developers. They’re people who are enthusiastic about it,” says Derek Yoo, CEO of PureStake and Founder of the Moonbeam Project, also on Polkadot now. “They are building new blockchains or new decentralized applications and finding ways to link existing chains to Polkadot’s new way of doing things,” he says.
The underlying appeal to developers is the more expressive and broader canvas they can paint on with Substrate, the Polkadot development system, compared to Ethereum.
If developers are flocking to it, so are investors.
Polkadot has been trading for less than a year. It was launched in its initial state only in May, in the middle of a global pandemic. It doesn’t yet correlate with anything, so it is not the cheaper ETH, so to speak.
“It’s better to make investment decisions based on other factors,” says Daniel Wolfe, Managing Director of Halcyon Global Opportunities in Moscow. He runs their Simoleon Long-Term Value fund.
“DOT and ETH have similar ambitions, with both aiming to be the major platform for smart contracts,” he says. DOT has many elements that are designed to address perceived weaknesses of ETH. But ETH is an established platform with many existing projects already working on it. “DOT is something we own and something we are watching carefully,” he says. “There is reason to believe it will be a better network, but we will need to see sustained adoption. If that happens, investors will want to move out of their ETH positions into DOT.”
Ethereum has many elements that make it a favorite hold of institutional investors that have been buying crypto over the last couple of years. It is much more liquid, of course, and you can buy ETH futures as of this month.
For many investors, too, ETH is the coin they buy when they begin to diversify outside of Bitcoin. “Institutional adoption is the major driver for crypto valuations today, so it makes sense to have a larger position in ETH than DOT for now,” says Wolfe.
Many retail crypto investors prefer to buy whole coins rather than fractions, so they are the ones driving the altcoin market. Better to have 100 DOTs than a quarter ETH if that’s all you’re willing to play with on Coinbase or Bitpay. Some traders just like having the whole coin. I’m one of those guys.
Coinbase does not have Polkadot, but Kraken and others do. I am on Coinbase.
“Pretty much every cryptocurrency is still closely tied to the movements of Bitcoin, anyway,” says Mancheski. “There had been a lot of talk about decoupling and ETH moving a different way but the subsequent bear markets showed just how much the market is tied to the price movements of Bitcoin. I don’t see this changing in the near future. Polkadot’s market cycle would largely follow Bitcoin’s.”
Sometimes coins just need some wacky lift. Something viral. Maybe the TikTok teens in love with the Disney+ children’s show Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir can find a friend in Polkadot. Looking at their website and it’s a bit dull, sadly. It needs to embrace the ladybug, maybe. Go red and white and black instead of pink, white and black. Just a suggestion.
For now, the latest hot crypto is up exactly 1,055% since inception and sells for $31.12 a coin. Ethereum, all of seven years old, is up 274,991.9% and approaching $2,000. Last year at this time, it was $265.
Everyone looks at Polkadot the same way – hoping it follows a similar trajectory as Buterin’s Ethereum.
“Most projects being built on Polkadot today will be somewhat correlated to DOT,” says Mancheski. “Polkadot will become a market mover.”
Yoo thinks the same, which is why he’s set up shop on it. “A bet on Polkadot is a bet on a multi-chain future,” he says. “The market is recognizing that this is the reality we are moving into.”