Mark Cuban’s Shark Tank Co-Host Mr. Wonderful Pulls 180 on Bitcoin

In brief

  • Kevin O’Leary has changed his mind about Bitcoin.
  • Mark Cuban, his Shark Tank colleague, is very interested in Ethereum.

First, Mark Cuban got into Ethereum. Now his Shark Tank co-host has announced his arrival to Bitcoin.

Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary, known to fans of the investor reality show as “Mr. Wonderful,” said today he will invest 3% of his portfolio in Bitcoin despite calling the crypto asset “garbage” less than two years ago.

“Changes in the regulatory environment have changed my mind about participating,” he tweeted, referring to the recent practice of companies such as Microstrategy, Square, and Tesla buying Bitcoin. “I will also invest in sustainable miners to avoid ‘blood coins’.”

  

Last week, O’Leary suggested he had softened his stance toward cryptocurrencies. In an interview with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on February 22, O’Leary said, “I actually think that digital currencies are here to stay.”

He went on to admit: “I’m holding a 3% weighting in it between Ethereum and Bitcoin. The volatility sickens me, but I’m getting used to it.”

That’s quite a conversion from March 2019 when O’Leary said Bitcoin was “garbage because you can’t get in and out of it in large amounts.” 

“Let’s say you want to buy a piece of real estate for $10 million in Switzerland,” he explained at the time. “They want a guarantee that the value comes back to the U.S. currency. You have to somehow hedge the risk of Bitcoin. That means it’s not a real currency. That means the receiver is not willing to take the risk of the volatility it has. It’s worthless.”

Even as recently as three weeks ago, he was bemoaning cryptocurrencies’ volatility. “Should I respect it? Yes, I’m not against it,” he told CNBC on February 10. “But would I put a lot of capital into it? No, I don’t want to own something that goes up and down 30% in a day or a week.” At the time, O’Leary said he owned less than $100 in crypto.

At that point, Microstrategy and Tesla had already sunk over $1 billion each into the cryptocurrency. In recent weeks, the former has upped its investment while payments firm Square has bought an additional $170 million. 

O’Leary’s television colleague, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is in the middle of his own crypto coming-out party. Cuban recently told Decrypt, Ethereum will disrupt big tech companies’ business models. While Cuban says Bitcoin is “better than gold,” he’s much more focused on Ethereum given that blockchain’s smart contract functionality.

Not that it’s a competition, but O’Leary comes off as slightly more bullish, at the moment. He even has laser eyes.

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Damien Hirst Is Now Accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum for His Art

In brief

  • Artist Damien Hirst is accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum for a new batch of prints.
  • The pieces are inspired by bushidō, the samurai code.

Damien Hirst—the British artist known for his preserved shark piece, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living—has said he’s now taking Bitcoin and Ethereum as payment for a new run of prints.

“For the first time, I’m accepting Cryptocurrency for payment,” he wrote on Instagram. “It’s hard for any of us to trust anything in this life but somehow we manage it and we even find love and I love art and I love the crypto world and I am happy and proud to put my belief into Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) and accept them for this drop.”

And though you can pay for them in crypto, these pieces are very much not “crypto art”—the eight prints represent different takes on cherry blossoms, inspired by the eight virtues of bushidō, the samurai code. They cost $3,000 a pop, and they’re only on sale until March 3.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living put Hirst on the map in the 90s, and though he’s been producing less important work over the years, his art remains polarizing as ever; a 2017 exhibition in Venice was met with both raves and pans.

The big story at the proverbial “intersection of art and technology” over the past few months has beenNFTs (non-fungible tokens): cryptographically secured assets that can put any sort of digital art on the Ethereum blockchain. According to a report from the blockchain analytics firm NonFungible, the market grew by 2800% last year.

Earlier today, musician and visual artist (and girlfriend to billionaire Elon Musk) Grimes sold a collection of NFTs for over $6 million.

And while NFTs are typically online images and animations, physical artworks can come with NFT components too. In October, Christie’s sold a Bitcoin-themed piece with an accompanying NFT for $131,000.

For now, though, Hirst’s prints remain off-chain.

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Bitcoin Still Has an Uncertain Future: Citibank Analysts

In a 100-page deep-dive report dubbed “Bitcoin, at the Tipping Point,” Citibank’s global perspectives and solutions team noted that the cryptocurrency could potentially “become the currency of choice for international trade.”

The analysts acknowledged that the massive interest shown by several large institutional investors like Tesla, Microstrategy, and PayPal is one of the major propellants for the digital asset gaining mainstream adoption.

The team further noted that several other factors, including a wide range of digital payment options like stablecoins and Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), could also increase the chances of bitcoin adoption for cross-border settlements.

An Uncertain Future

The report also pointed out that a side-by-side comparison of the risks associated with bitcoin and the opportunities it presents makes it very easy to conclude that the digital asset is at a tipping point.

They wrote:

 “There are a host of risks and obstacles that stand in the way of Bitcoin progress… Weighing the potential hurdles against the opportunities leads to the conclusion that Bitcoin is at a tipping point… Bitcoin’s future is thus still uncertain, but developments in the near term are likely to prove decisive as the currency balances at the tipping point of mainstream acceptance or a speculative implosion.”

Bitcoin Going Mainstream Already 

The concluding part of the report quoted the famous philosopher, Schopenhauer, who said,

“All Truths pass through three stages, first it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

The team states that the positive change in stance on issues about bitcoin by several financial institutions very well prove these words of Schopenhauer, which he said more than 150 years before the bitcoin idea was born.

Several banks had actively shunned bitcoin in the past, arguing that it has no intrinsic value as it is allegedly backed by mere speculations from its proponents.

However, bitcoin’s immense growth has forced its former critics to re-evaluate their stance and join the bitcoin adoption trend. Some of the biggest banks in the world have started offering bitcoin services to their clients.

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Matic, xDAI (STAKE) and Loopring (LRC) rally as Ethereum gas fees rise

The start of a new month has brought renewed fervor from the cryptocurrency market as Bitcoin (BTC) price steadily climbed from a low of $43,537 on Feb. 28 to a high of $49,200 during today’s early trading hours. 

As traders get excited about positive moves in the market and look to re-enter positions, the increasing use of DeFi continues to drive fees on the Ethereum (ETH) network higher, shining the spotlight on the top layer-2 (L2) protocols that offer working solutions.

Three protocols that have emerged as top L2 contenders with working platforms are Polygon (MATIC), xDai (STAKE), and Loopring (LRC). Each offers its own unique layer-2 approaches to helping ease high traffic on the Ethereum network. 

MATIC/USDT

Polygon, previously known as Matic, officially launched as a layer-two aggregator for Ethereum on Feb. 9 as a way to offer an interoperability protocol for the network.

Since excitement for the rebrand began, MATIC price has increased by 400% from $0.05 to an all-time high of $0.245 on March 1. Growing excitement for the Aavegotchi (GHST) mainnet launch on March 2 has also brought a boost of attention and trading volume to MATIC.

MATIC/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView

Aavegotchi was one of the first projects to bridge over to the Polygon network and it will likely be joined by other projects if its mainnet launch on the network go smoothly.

MATIC also received a boost on Feb. 26 when it was announced that gaming giant Atari would be integrating Polygon in order to “bring their NFT & token products to Layer 2,” along with the launch of “the first EOS-Polygon cross-chain bridge,” that was done in partnership with pNetwork (PNT).

XDAI/USDT

 xDai is another layer-2 solution that has caught the attention of investors over the past few weeks. The xDai (STAKE) chain is a stable payment blockchain created by the POA Network, an Ethereum open-source public side-chain which offers a framework for smart contracts.

STAKE is designed to be a multi-chain staking token that validators and delegators offer as collateral in order to participate in the consensus mechanism and receive staking incentives for block production. The goal of the xDai platform is to offer fast and inexpensive transactions on the Ethereum network.

Since trading at a low of $7.50 on Jan. 2, STAKE price increased 500% to a new all-time high of $43 on Feb. 21 before falling under pressure alongside the wider cryptocurrency market.

XDAI/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView

A scroll through the project’s Twitter feed shows multiple recent partnerships and integration announcements that have helped propel STAKE higher in recent weeks.

Notable mentions include an integration with the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) that allows users to move funds from Binance to xDAI using a BSC-to-xDai Bridge as well as the announced migration of the up-and-coming Bao Finance (BAO) to the xDai network.

LRC/USDT

Loopring is a layer-2 solution that specifically focuses on the creation of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEX).

One of the major sources of congestion on the Ethereum network is the ever-growing activity of popular DEXs like Uniswap (UNI) and SushiSwap (SUSHI).  A separate side-chain made specifically for exchange trading could help alleviate congestion on the network and this is what Loopring aspires to provide.

The overall goal of the Loopring protocol is to combine the advantages of decentralized exchanges with the liquidity and order book management offered by centralized exchanges to help increase the efficiency of order execution and enhance the liquidity of the DEX ecosystem.

Since Jan. 2, LRC has increased by 430% from $0.165 to a high of $0.88 on Feb. 12 .

LRC/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView

After falling to a low of $0.46 on Feb. 28, LRC price rallied 30% after it was announced that the Loopring exchange added multiple WBTC/Stablecoin pairs, offering “6 new ways to trade WBTC on Ehtereum L2.”

VORTECS™ data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro began to detect a bullish outlook for LRC on Feb. 28, prior to the recent price rise.

The VORTECS™ score, exclusive to Cointelegraph, is an algorithmic comparison of historic and current market conditions derived from a combination of data points including market sentiment, trading volume, recent price movements and Twitter activity.

VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. LRC price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro

As seen on the chart above, the VORTECS™ score for LRC reached a high of 73 on Feb. 28, just as the price was beginning it’s 30% rally to $0.59.

Continued increases in the price of Ethereum, which rose back above $1,500 on March 1, will only exacerbate the pain felt by traders attempting to use popular DeFi protocols on the network.

The amount of gas needed to conduct basic transactions as well as the price of these fees will continue to drive users to trial the alternatives be offered by layer 2 solutions, and Polygon, xDai and Loopring are three protocols well-positioned to capitalize on this trend.