The decentralized virtual currency called bitcoin has been around for nearly a decade, but it’s just recently starting to find mainstream attention and, in some circles, acceptance. That shift is thanks in no small part to the skyrocketing value of bitcoin, the world’s best-known “cryptocurrency,” from $1,000 near the start of the year to nearly $20,000 today.
For investors like Spark Capital General Partner Megan Quinn, “the toothpaste is out of the tube.” On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Casey Newton, Quinn explained her investment in Coinbase, a company that is trying to position itself as the safe place to trade cryptocurrencies.
“People were sleeping on each others’ couches and renting rooms before Airbnb, but Airbnb provided that really safe, clean, approved — you got feedback, it was a transaction,” Quinn said. “You felt good about it. We think Coinbase is providing that sort of experience for trading crypto.”
Someday, Quinn said, the value of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will level off enough that we will be able to start treating them like real money. But that day is not today.
“Today it’s speculative, 100 percent,” she said. “One of the folks on my team said he was liquidating his 401k to buy in, which made me pretty nervous. I’m optimistic that it will actually be a tool for transacting, once we reach some steady state.”
“In a world where it’s going up by a thousand dollars every couple hours, you don’t want to go to Overstock.com and buy a mattress,” Quinn added. “But if we can get to a place where it’s steady-state, I think there’s real opportunity there.”
So, who should buy into bitcoin now, when the price is so volatile? Talking to Swisher and Newton a few weeks ago, when the price was a measly $17,000, Quinn warned not to trust any of the “false prophet[s]” who claim to know when the roller coaster ride will be over; buying in now only makes sense for people with a lot of disposable income, she added.
“If you have a spare $17,000 that you are fine seeing go to zero, okay, fine, that’s not the worst way to spend it,” she said. “I don’t think cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin specifically, is ever going to go to zero. But I think if you’re someone who’s willing to have it go to zero, then you can ride out the stomach-lurching volatility that we’re going to continue to see for a while.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.