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Pop quiz for the crypto diehards out there: What have been the three most significant years for in its 13-year history?
If you're going strictly by price gains per year, 2013—when Bitcoin climbed from $13 to about $1,200, a more than 9,000% gain—would top your list. But ShapeShift founder Erik Voorhees, one of the earliest and most influential people in crypto, doesn't include 2013 on his list.
Voorhees was asked the question during an extensive chat on Episode 2 of Decrypt's new gm podcast.
His top three years? 2017, 2020, and 2021.
2017 makes the list for both price performance (Bitcoin rose 1,700% from $1,100 all the way up to nearly $20,000) and for the more elusive metric of hype. The image of families discussing crypto around the Thanksgiving table became a lasting one for the year, which Voorhees simply says was "the last real bubble" before the pandemic. (Yes, even he refers to that time as a bubble.) Of course, in February 2018, Bitcoin fell off a cliff and the industry entered what is widely referred to as Crypto Winter.
Voorhees's second pick is the year that just ended. Crypto went more mainstream than ever before, whether you're measuring by publicly traded companies buying in, traditional Wall Street hedge fund titans changing their tune on crypto, value pouring into , or the proliferation of , to name just some of the corners of crypto that mooned.
Further development of the Lightning network, El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as legal tender, and the NFT boom are some of the specific reasons Voorhees gives for 2021. "And I think more broadly, it's clear that crypto generally has gone beyond a niche technology," he said. "Whereas a few years ago, people would be embarrassed if they knew a lot about crypto, today I think people are more embarrassed if they don't know much about crypto. It's becoming a requirement if you're going to speak intelligently on finance and markets and technology."
His third year is 2020, a surprise since many might select 2013, when Bitcoin first topped $1,000. ("That was important, but the scale was still so small," Voorhees said.)
In 2020, the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic sent crypto prices tumbling along with stocks at first—and then the crypto market dramatically reversed course.
That initial selloff was "yet another time when all the skeptics and haters could say, ‘See, this stuff is nonsense, it's just a bubble, it's going to go to zero,’" Voorhees said. "It gave people every reason to just be dismissive of it. And within a couple months, it had totally clawed back all that value and went on to hit all-time highs later that year. So 2020 and 2021 together, it's really been a profound couple years for everyone in this space."