At the twenty-fifth edition of this newsletter, I want to look across this dull news week at what has been the best-yielding investment in tech over the last five years. To my surprise, it was not Apple, Bitcoin or Nvidia, but Tesla. In the crypto world, Ethereum turned out to have risen twice as much as Bitcoin. Ok, one news fact did stand out this week: Tinder is introducing a $500-a-month subscription, for real enthusiasts.
Tesla and Ethereum the big winners
Tesla rose as much as 1287% and Ethereum 611% over the last five years, against Nvidia 492%, Bitcoin 305% and Apple 210%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500, the classic benchmark, did 48%. War and inflation notwithstanding, saving has still proven far more expensive than index investing.
Tesla and Elon Musk I leave to Walter Isaacson, whose book on Musk is a huge hit. Rather, I look at Ethereum, precisely because the traditional media rarely, if ever, publish a decent analysis on this underrated platform.
But before we dive into the numbers and prices, it's important to review what Ethereum does and can do and how it differs from that blockchain brother from another mother, Bitcoin. For this description, I used ChatGPT and Gert-Jan Lasterie's standard work.
Ethereum is a public workshop
Imagine that the Internet is a big city. In that city you have a market for commerce, a library for information, a bank for money matters, and so on. Bitcoin is something like a special kind of gold; valuable and you can keep it, but otherwise you can't do much with it. The exchange rate varies greatly and so you won't be using it to pay for anything anytime soon.
Ethereum is something completely different, where a group of people got together at the initiative of Vitalik Buterin and said, "instead ofjust making a new kind of money or a different kind of gold, shall we put some kind of public workshop in the city where people can build all sorts of things?"
With Ethereum, you can create "smart contracts," which sounds a bit like magic contracts, which automatically execute themselves once certain conditions are met. So suppose you want to rent a house. Normally you would go to a real estate agent or housing association, show your ID, pay and sign paperwork.
Based on Ethereum, landlord and tenant can use a smart contract that says, "Whoever pays the digital key fee will automatically get the digital key to the house." That transaction takes place on the Internet, no middleman is needed, everything happens automatically based on the smart contract.
But it doesn't stop there. Ethereum is used to build so-called "decentralized applications," called dApps. These are programs that do not run on one central computer but are spread across many computers worldwide. This often makes them more secure and less susceptible to fraud or censorship.
The magic word is decentralized
There is also "DeFi" ("DieFai"), which stands for "Decentralized Finance. These are financial services such as loans or insurance that work on Ethereum through smart contracts, without the involvement of banks or other financial institutions. The 2021 NFT boom was also built on the Ethereum platform.
Unlike Bitcoin and Ripple, Ethereum is technically not a currency, but an open-source software platform for blockchain applications - with Ether (ETH) being the cryptocurrency used within the Ethereum network.
In short, Ethereum is special because it is much more than just a digital currency. It is a complete digital world where you can enter into all kinds of transactions and agreements without the need for anyone else.
It's like a new, smarter layer of the Internet. To join you only need ETH as a means of payment, similar to buying a festival coin when you go to festivals because that coin is accepted as the only means of payment.
Why is Ethereum risky from an investment standpoint?
So much for the utopian vision: a world computer with smart contracts. There is nothing wrong with that, and as an entrepreneur, I am a big fan of access to a development platform like Ethereum. I won't even rule out Ethereum's creators getting a Nobel Prize in economics one day.
But from an investment standpoint, let's look at a fundamental economic principle: scarcity - or in the case of Ethereum, the lack thereof. Every right-thinking person supports Ethereum's expansive vision. It wants to be the oil that drives the gears of Web3. But the oil supply is finite; Ethereum is not.
Bitcoin has its own counter-story. It is limited to twenty-one million Bitcoins, which means built-in scarcity. You don't have to be an economist to understand that scarcity drives demand, which in turn drives up the price.
But Ethereum is like a never-ending digital oil well. Great for powering the network and ensuring there is always enough, but not so great for the fundamental principle of supply and demand. If ETH becomes too abundant, its value may decline, causing the price per coin to fall. The infinite supply means that ETH becomes as common as tap water in developed countries: of course you need it, but you're not going to pay a premium for it.
Thus, the lack of a supply limit for Ethereum can be the Achilles heel for a stable developing price. Therefore, keep a sharp eye on it if you are considering investing in Ethereum after the following paragraphs, because the lack of a supply limit is not icing on the cake; it could be the whole cake, or even the whole pastry - in a country full of diabetics.
Spotlight 9: TSLA phenomenal, ETH rises twice as fast as Bitcoin
The idea behind Spotlight 9, a name coined by ChatGPT for this column, was to briefly track weekly how the major tech investments were doing compared to the benchmark, the S&P 500. It remains simple: if an investment does not outperform the S&P 500 over the long term, why invest in it and not the S&P? Amazon is such a setback, up only 29% over the last five years versus +48% for the S&P 500.
Stock market sentiment is important because when it rains there, it trickles down throughout the tech world to the youngest startups. If there are no exits, no IPOs, that means less investment in larger tech companies that are not yet publicly traded and it affects the entire tech sector. Ultimately, it limits new innovations.
Meta out, Tesla in
Tesla was not in my Spotlight 9 list because I follow the five biggest tech companies weekly, ranked by market value. Those are Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft and Meta (Facebook). Tesla falls just outside that, but it gets interesting: Meta is currently worth $769 billion and Tesla ... $767 billion.
Based on its performance over the last five years, I threw Meta out of Spotlight 9 and Tesla is in it as of today. Zuckerberg must be devastated and in Musk's house, Elon and the little x's are certainly running an algorithmically calculated polonaise. Let's hope Musk doesn't disappoint with Tesla or I'll have to make another picture.
No master forecasters
In addition to the five largest tech companies by market value, I also follow the two largest crypto currencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum. There is so little coverage of crypto in the traditional media, and I myself have so little interest in daily prices, that I had completely missed the fact that after all the highly exposed price declines of the last two years, Ethereum and Bitcoin have still proven to be very good investments for people who look a little further than a week, a month or a year.
There is hatred and envy in the crypto world between Bitcoin maximalists and altcoin lovers. That's something like a metalhead explaining to a rapper why his music is better. They are incomparable giants, with Bitcoin, as mentioned, being somewhat comparable to a popular, digital version of gold, while Ethereum is a widely used building block of Web3.
Both have some utility, but how that will be reflected in the price is a total guess. As far as I know, at least in September 2018, no one was predicting that Ethereum (+611%) would appreciate twice as much as Bitcoin (+305%).
Tinder's $500-a-month subscription plan
I read this article and I could not read it without hearing a translation from Amsterdam-West in my head every five sentences. I translate those below back into language that will keep this email from ending up in your spam filter.
Let's start with this passage: "We know that there is a subset of highly engaged and active users who prioritize more effective and efficient ways to find connections," said Tinder Chief Product Officer Mark Van Ryswyk, "which is why we have been conducting extensive testing with this audience recently."
Translation: "We know that there is a horde of horny panters willing to pay unlimited money to us, as long as they have new
victims be able to find loves."
Going forward: "The new plan announced Friday, called Tinder Select, was only offered to less than 1% of Tinder users who are among the app's most active, the company said. For nearly $6,000 a year, users will get access to new features, such as 'VIP' search, matching and conversation, that are not currently available with existing paid subscriptions."
Translation: "We don't know exactly how to do it legally yet, but we are going to give this group of addicts a chance to get their
victims target audience, at the expense of then those customers of ours who only pay a few tens."
Another gem from the article: "Tinder parent company Match Group Inc. has experience with expensive subscriptions. In 2022, it bought The League, an invitation-only dating app aimed at "ambitious, career-oriented singles. The League has a VIP subscription that costs $1,000 a week. The company previously said the success of The League's expensive subscription caused Match Group to reconsider how it could appeal to "high-intention users on its other apps such as Tinder."
Conclusion: it is heartening that people today have the opportunity to find more potential partners and/or playmates than they used to find at the bus stop to the office or at the billiard bar. Butreh... "high intention users? We used to have very different designations for that kind of low-level guys and girls.
YouTuber and postdoctoral researcher Rob ter Horst of the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine in Vienna tested the new Apple watches and made this fun and informative, science-based video about them. According to his resume, Ter Horst is "designer and research subject at the same time of an extensive N=1 study in the field of computational chemistry and bioinformatics.
Maybe nice if Ter Horst unleashed his scientific expertise and N=1 approach on that $500 subscription, went wild on Tinder for a month and published all the findings of his scientific research on YouTube?