What the tech billionaires think of cryptocurrencies

Everyone seems to have an opinion about cryptocurrencies these days. Opinions range from ‘decentralized digital currencies are the saviors of a broken financial system that can financially empower individuals’, to ‘they are only used by criminals and terrorists to fund their illicit activities’.

Opinions also vary among the world’s leading tech pioneers when it comes to cryptocurrencies and here we will have a look at where some of the greatest minds in tech think we are headed.

Bill Gates

Formerly serving as the CEO of the Microsoft Corporation for 25 years, and now as a humanitarian through his foundation, Gates is currently considered the second wealthiest man on the planet with his net worth estimated to be $90 billion.

Initially, Gates exhibited optimism towards bitcoin. In Oct 2014, speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to physically be in the same place and of course for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient … Bitcoin tech is key. You can add to it or you could build similar tech where there is enough attribution so people feel comfortable with it.”

Given Gates’ prolific persona, this stance was well received within the crypto-community. However, the billionaire recently amended his view. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on this past February, Gates explained his current opinion on cryptocurrencies stating: “The main feature of cryptocurrencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The Government’s ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and cryptocurrencies is super risky for those who go long.”

While it is true that investing in cryptocurrencies is risky, the same can be said of traditional investments. Moreover, the rise of cryptocurrencies is not proportionally related to criminal activities as they are just payment systems. With this reasoning, the use of fiat currency could also be said to lead to deaths as it is still the primary means of purchasing drugs, arms, and other potentially harmful items.


Peter Thiel

In 1999, American Peter Thiel founded the payment processing company PayPal where he was CEO until it was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. Thiel, who was revealed only last year as a New Zealand citizen since 2011, is involved in a number of successful business ventures such as big data firm Palantir Technologies as well as a venture capital fund called the Founders Fund.

Thiel has long been considered a believer in the growth potential of bitcoin. The Silicon Valley pioneer began purchasing bitcoin, through his venture capital fund in mid-2017. The fund has reportedly made substantial profits through these investments.

Speaking at the Economic Club of New York earlier this month, Thiel explained that he firmly believed in the future of bitcoin and would be holding it for the long-term. He said: “I would be long bitcoin, and neutral to skeptical of just about everything else at this point with a few possible exceptions,”

He further clarified he believed bitcoin would function primarily as a store of value as opposed to a spending currency. “There will be one online equivalent to gold, and the one you’d bet on would be the biggest. I’m not talking about a new payments system. It’s like bars of gold in a vault that never move, and it’s a sort of hedge of sorts against the world going to fall apart.”

With regard to the myriad detractors of the digital currency, especially among his peers in the traditional investment sector, Thiel explained his view saying: “Any of the objections most people would have to Bitcoin are the same objections people would have had to gold but money is a bubble that never pops … and there is this bubble-like aspect to money that can be quite stable.”

Elon Musk

Entrepreneur and scientist Elon Musk is at the helm of a number of forward-thinking tech-based businesses such as the space exploration company SpaceX and the sustainable energy-driven car company Tesla.

Speaking to Vanity Fair in 2014, Musk gave his opinion on the leading cryptocurrency stating: “My opinion of bitcoin is that it’s probably a good thing. It is, I guess, primarily a means of doing illegal transactions but that’s not necessarily entirely bad because some things maybe shouldn’t be illegal. It will be useful for legal and illegal transactions”

Musk recently explained that he does not own a significant amount of cryptocurrency tweeting: “I literally own zero cryptocurrency, apart from .25 BTC that a friend sent me many years ago.” He further added that he does not have access to the funds because he cannot remember where he stored his private keys.

Nonetheless, a picture of Musk holding a book about cryptocurrencies at the recent SXSW festival caused quite a stir online, leading to widespread speculation about the addition of blockchain tech or cryptocurrencies to any of the scientists’ platforms.

Jack Dorsey 

Jack Dorsey is a leading tech entrepreneur having co-founded the social media giant Twitter as well as the mobile payments company Square.

Speaking to the Times of London, Dorsey revealed his belief that bitcoin would eventually gain mass adoption stating: “The world ultimately will have a single currency, the internet will have a single currency. I personally believe that it will be Bitcoin.”

Dorsey made sure to explain that this state of affairs would not be possible with the current Bitcoin network as it has been facing grave scalability challenges. However, with time these issues would be mitigated and the digital currency would be able to function effectively.  “It does not have the capabilities right now to become an effective currency. It’s slow and it’s costly, but as more and more people have it, those things go away. There are newer technologies that build off of blockchain and make it more approachable.”

Lastly, he opined on the timeline within which that the cryptocurrency would be able to scale saying: “probably over ten years, but it could go faster.”

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