A New Digital Economy: Visualizing the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem
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Visualizing the New Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

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Visualizing the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

Visualizing the New Cryptocurrency Economy

Over a decade ago, the birth of Bitcoin sparked a revolution in the digital world — and just last year, the number of active cryptocurrencies jumped from roughly 1,600 to over 3,000 worldwide.

Cryptocurrencies have now evolved past simple digital currencies, offering solutions to meet the complex needs of modern financial markets.

Today’s graphic from Abra visualizes the complex, ever-evolving cryptocurrency ecosystem and its real-world applications.

Characteristics of Cryptocurrencies

Why are cryptocurrencies important for the future of digital finance?

  • Borderless
    Drastically reduces fees and processing times due to a lack of cross-border restrictions
  • Censorship-free
    Prevents governments or major institutions from blocking financial activities at whim
  • Greater financial control
    Individuals can have total control of their funds
  • Greater security
    Prevents fraudulent alterations from third parties
  • Lower costs
    Lower transaction fees thanks to fewer third parties
  • Greater Accessibility
    Reduces or eliminates traditional barriers to capital markets

Much like the internet has forever altered how we live and work, cryptocurrencies have the potential to change how people participate in global financial markets.

Categorizing the New Crypto Economy

Today’s cryptocurrencies go beyond replacing cash. This new token-based economy is evolving─with unique solutions emerging in finance, security, identification, social engagement, and ownership.

Cryptocurrencies are generally categorized by their primary application within the ecosystem:

  • Payments
    Digital cash can be used for both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retailers
  • Store of value
    New form of scarce native currency and a means of settlement
  • Programmable money
    Borderless money that enables easy conversion between currencies
  • Stablecoins
    Crypto version of fiat which is tied to the value of resources like gold or the U.S. dollar
  • Privacy
    Private digital transactions, with some offering anonymity
  • Digital ownership
    Digital handling, storage, and monetization of data
  • Decentralized utilities
    Crypto-enabled networks, products, and services that exchange between assets
  • Alternative finance
    Digital assets such as collectibles, commodities, and tokenized securities

Cryptocurrencies are adding both value and utility to the digital economy, and to the global financial market as a whole.

Applications of Cryptocurrencies

Because cryptocurrencies are programmable, customizable computer code, developers can design and adapt them for many use cases within the digital economy.

How are these various cryptocurrencies being used in everyday applications?

Current Projects

  • SPEDN auto-converts crypto to fiat for merchants, reducing exchange rate risk while offering convenient customer payment options.
  • Slice offers real estate investing to anyone for as low as $10,000 through fractional investment.

Near-future Projects

  • CyClean plans to launch a blockchain-enabled electric vehicle (EV) fleet that mines crypto as users travel—reducing emissions and rewarding users for doing so.
  • Digital construction platform Builderium connects contractors to clients around the world through blockchain, opening up a global marketplace of potential deals.

These are just a few of the ways cryptocurrencies are breaking down barriers for people and companies worldwide—allowing them to grow personal wealth and enter the global market.

The Growth of the Crypto Economy

Worldwide, the numbers show that blockchain-based technology and cryptocurrency use is growing. Blockchain wallet users rose from nearly 9 million in 2016 to over 42 million in 2019.

Developers produced a mere 100 decentralized apps (DApps) in 2015─with that number skyrocketing to over 3,100 by 2019.

Overall, cryptocurrencies are helping to create an innovative and accessible financial system around the world.

Cryptocurrency deserves an opportunity to find a sustainable future in our economy.

—Adena Friedman, President & CEO of NASDAQ

While the future of the new cryptocurrency economy is still taking shape, one thing is certain─cryptos are forever altering the way we view and measure the value of money.

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Markets

How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021

Cryptocurrencies had a breakout year in 2021, providing plenty of volatility and strong returns across crypto’s various sectors.

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crypto prices 2021

The Returns of Top Cryptocurrencies in 2021

2021 saw the crypto markets boom and mature, with different sectors flourishing and largely outperforming the market leader, bitcoin.

While bitcoin only managed to return 59.8% last year, the crypto sector’s total market cap grew by 187.5%, with many of the top coins offering four and even five-digit percentage returns.

2021 Crypto Market Roundup

Last year wasn’t just a breakout year for crypto in terms of returns, but also the growing infrastructure’s maturity and resulting decorrelation of individual crypto industries and coins.

Crypto’s infrastructure has developed significantly, and there are now many more onramps for people to buy altcoins that don’t require purchasing and using bitcoin in the process. As a result, many cryptocurrency prices were more dictated by the value and functionality of their protocol and applications rather than their correlation to bitcoin.

CryptocurrencyCategory2021 Returns
BitcoinCryptocurrency59.8%
EthereumSmart Contract Platform399.2%
Binance CoinExchange Token1,268.9%
SolanaSmart Contract Platform11,177.8%
CardanoSmart Contract Platform621.3%
XRPCryptocurrency277.8%
TerraSmart Contract Platform12,967.3%
AvalancheSmart Contract Platform3,334.8%
PolkadotSmart Contract Platform187.9%
DogecoinMeme Coin3,546.0%

Sources: TradingView, Binance, Uniswap, FTX, Bittrex

Bitcoin wasn’t the only cryptocurrency that didn’t manage to reach triple-digit returns in 2021. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash also provided meagre double-digit percentage returns, as payment-focused cryptocurrencies were largely ignored for projects with smart contract capabilities.

Other older projects like Stellar Lumens (109%) and XRP (278%) provided triple-digit returns, with Cardano (621%) being the best performer of the old guard despite not managing to ship its smart contract functionality last year.

The Rise of the Ethereum Competitors

Ethereum greatly outpaced bitcoin in 2021, returning 399.2% as the popularity boom of NFTs and creation of DeFi 2.0 protocols like Olympus (OHM) expanded possible use-cases.

But with the rise of network activity, a 50% increase in transfers in 2021, Ethereum gas fees surged. From minimums of $20 for a single transaction, to NFT mint prices starting around $40 and going into the hundreds on congested network days, crypto’s retail crowd migrated to other smart contract platforms with lower fees.

Alternative budding smart contract platforms like Solana (11,178%), Avalanche (3,335%), and Fantom (13,207%) all had 4-5 digit percentage returns, as these protocols built out their own decentralized finance ecosystems and NFT markets.

With Ethereum set to merge onto the beacon chain this year, which uses proof of stake instead of proof of work, we’ll see if 2022 brings lower gas fees and retail’s return to Ethereum if the merge is successful.

Dog Coins Meme their Way to the Top

While many new cryptocurrencies with strong functionality and unique use-cases were rewarded with strong returns, it was memes that powered the greatest returns in cryptocurrencies this past year.

Dogecoin’s surge after Elon Musk’s “adoption” saw many other dog coins follow, with SHIB benefitting the most and returning an astounding 19.85 million percent.

But ever since Dogecoin’s run from $0.07 to a high of $0.74 in Q2 of last year, the original meme coin’s price has slowly bled -77% down to $0.17 at the time of writing. After the roller coaster ride of last year, 2022 started with a positive catalyst for Dogecoin holders as Elon Musk announced DOGE can be used to purchase Tesla merchandise.

Gamifying the Crypto Industry

The intersection between crypto, games, and the metaverse became more than just a pipe dream in 2021. Axie Infinity was the first crypto native game to successfully establish a play to earn structure that combines its native token (AXS) and in-game NFTs, becoming a sensation and source of income for many in the Philippines.

Other crypto gaming projects like Defi Kingdoms are putting recognizable game interfaces on decentralized finance applications, with the decentralized exchange becoming the town’s “marketplace” and yield farms being the “gardens” where yield is harvested. This fantasy aesthetic is more than just a new coat of paint, as the project with $1.04B of total value locked is developing an underlying play-to-earn game.

Along with gamification, 2021 saw crypto native and non-crypto developers put a big emphasis on the digital worlds or metaverses users will inhabit. Facebook’s name change to Meta resulted in the two prominent metaverse projects The Sandbox (SAND) and Decentraland (MANA) surge another few hundred percent to finish off the year at 16,261% and 4,104% returns respectively.

With so many eyes on the crypto sector after the 2021’s breakout year, we’ll see how developing U.S. regulation and changing macro conditions affect cryptocurrencies in 2022.

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Technology

Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing IPO Valuations

Tracking the companies that have gone public in 2021, their valuation, and how they did it.

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Companies Gone Public in 2021 Share

Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing Valuations

Despite its many tumultuous turns, last year was a productive year for global markets, and companies going public in 2021 benefited.

From much-hyped tech initial public offerings (IPOs) to food and healthcare services, many companies with already large followings have gone public this year. Some were supposed to go public in 2020 but got delayed due to the pandemic, and others saw the opportunity to take advantage of a strong current market.

This graphic measures 68 companies that have gone public in 2021 — including IPOs, SPACs, and Direct Listings—as well as their subsequent valuations after listing.

Who’s Gone Public in 2021?

Historically, companies that wanted to go public employed one main method above others: the initial public offering (IPO).

But companies going public today readily choose from one of three different options, depending on market situations, associated costs, and shareholder preference:

  • Initial Public Offering (IPO): A private company creates new shares which are underwritten by a financial organization and sold to the public.
  • Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC): A separate company with no operations is created strictly to raise capital to acquire the company going public. SPACs are the fastest method of going public, and have become popular in recent years.
  • Direct Listing: A private company enters a market with only existing, outstanding shares being traded and no new shares created. The cost is lower than that of an IPO, since no fees need to be paid for underwriting.

The majority of companies going public in 2021 chose the IPO route, but some of the biggest valuations resulted from direct listings.

Listing DateCompanyValuation ($B)Listing Type
08-Jan-21Clover Health$7.0SPAC
13-Jan-21Affirm$11.9IPO
13-Jan-21Billtrust$1.3SPAC
14-Jan-21Poshmark$3.0IPO
15-Jan-21Playtika$11.0IPO
21-Jan-21Hims and Hers Health$1.6SPAC
28-Jan-21Qualtrics$15.0IPO
09-Feb-21Metromile-SPAC
11-Feb-21Bumble$8.2IPO
26-Feb-21ChargePoint Holdings-SPAC
03-Mar-21Oscar Health$7.9IPO
10-Mar-21Roblox$30.0Direct Listing
11-Mar-21Coupang$60.0IPO
23-Mar-21DigitalOcean$5.0IPO
25-Mar-21VIZIO$3.9IPO
26-Mar-21ThredUp$1.3IPO
31-Mar-21Coursera$4.3IPO
01-Apr-21Compass$8.0IPO
14-Apr-21Coinbase$86.0Direct Listing
15-Apr-21AppLovin$28.6IPO
21-Apr-21UiPath$35.0IPO
21-Apr-21DoubleVerify$4.2IPO
05-May-21The Honest Company$1.4IPO
07-May-21Lightning eMotors$0.82SPAC
07-May-21Blade Air Mobility$0.83SPAC
19-May-21Squarespace$7.4Direct Listing
19-May-21Procore$9.6IPO
19-May-21Oatly$10.0IPO
26-May-21ZipRecruiter$2.4Direct Listing
26-May-21FIGS$4.4IPO
01-Jun-21SoFi$8.7SPAC
02-Jun-21BarkBox$1.6SPAC
08-Jun-21Marqueta$15.0IPO
10-Jun-21Monday.com$7.5IPO
16-Jun-21WalkMe$2.5IPO
22-Jun-21Sprinklr$3.7IPO
24-Jun-21Confluent$9.1IPO
29-Jun-21Clear$4.5IPO
30-Jun-21SentinelOne$10.0IPO
30-Jun-21LegalZoom$7.0IPO
30-Jun-21Didi Chuxing$73.0IPO
16-Jul-21Blend$4IPO
21-Jul-21Kaltura$1.24IPO
21-Jul-21DISCO$2.5IPO
21-Jul-21Couchbase$1.4IPO
23-Jul-21Vtex$3.5IPO
23-Jul-21Outbrain$1.1IPO
28-Jul-21Duolingo$3.7IPO
28-Jul-21Riskified$3.3IPO
29-Jul-21Robinhood$32.0IPO
22-Sep-21Toast$22.0IPO
22-Sep-21Freshworks$10.1IPO
23-Sep-21Remitly$6.9IPO
28-Sep-21Amplitude$6.4Direct Listing
29-Sep-21Warby Parker$6.0Direct Listing
14-Oct-21GitLab$11.0IPO
27-Oct-21Rent the Runway$1.7IPO
29-Oct-21Udemy$4.0IPO
03-Nov-21Allbirds$2.2IPO
04-Nov-21NerdWallet$1.2IPO
10-Nov-21Rivian$66.5IPO
10-Nov-21Expensify$2.2IPO
11-Nov-21Winc-IPO
11-Nov-21Weave-IPO
17-Nov-21UserTesting-IPO
17-Nov-21Braze$6.0IPO
18-Nov-21Sweetgreen$3.0IPO
09-Dec-21Nubank$41.0IPO

Though there are many well-known names in the list, one of the biggest through lines continues to be the importance of tech.

A majority of 2021’s newly public companies have been in tech, including multiple mobile apps, websites, and online services. The two biggest IPOs so far were South Korea’s Coupang, an online marketplace valued at $60 billion after going public, and China’s ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, the year’s largest post-IPO valuation at $73 billion.

And there were many apps and services going public through other means as well. Gaming company Roblox went public through a direct listing, earning a valuation of $30 billion, and cryptocurrency platform Coinbase has earned the year’s largest valuation so far, with an $86 billion valuation following its direct listing.

Big Companies Going Public in 2022

As with every year, some of the biggest companies going public were lined up for the later half.

Tech will continue to be the talk of the markets. Payment processing firm Stripe was setting up to be the year’s biggest IPO with an estimated valuation of $95 billion, but got delayed. Likewise, online grocery delivery platform InstaCart, which saw a big upswing in traction due to the pandemic, has been looking to go public at a valuation of at least $39 billion.

Of course, it’s common that potential public listings and offerings fall through. Whether they get delayed due to weak market conditions or cancelled at the last minute, anything can happen when it comes to public markets.

This post has been updated as of January 1, 2022.

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