The rapid growth of cryptocurrencies as an asset class is unlike almost anything else we’ve seen in our lifetimes. The closest analog is probably the rapid growth in internet companies both leading up to the dot-com crash and then in the recovery after.
It took Alphabet (GOOGL), for instance, a total of 13 years to surpass a $200 billion market capitalization (six years from founding to IPO and then seven from IPO to $200 billion). Bitcoin reached the same threshold in eight years.
On the whole, cryptocurrencies command a $2 trillion share of the global economy, a figure that’s larger than all but 16 global stock exchanges.
Couple this growth with the fact that the entire ecosystem is built on new technologies, and investors are doing everything they can just to keep up with the lingo. So, with that in mind, let’s explore a foundational aspect of cryptocurrencies: How they’re structured.
When people first think about cryptocurrencies their mind instantly goes to Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH). While those are the two largest blockchain networks by market capitalization, a blockchain network and its associated cryptocurrency are what are known as Layer Ones.
Layer One Tokens
Put another way, a blockchain is a decentralized immutable ledger—a database recorded and validated by a global network of computers. Transacting in Layer One cryptocurrencies means you are interacting with the blockchain directly. Your buys, sells and transfers are recorded on that global ledger.
With BTC and ETH the computing power required to append your transaction to the end of the ledger translates to higher transaction fees and slower transactions. BTC is limited to roughly five transactions per second (TPS), with ETH at five to 10 (although developers are anticipating that an upcoming transition to ETH 2.0 will boost TPS significantly, perhaps as much as 10,000x). A company like Visa (V), on the other hand, can process 65,000 TPS.
We would like to highlight a better investment opportunity based on valuation and two essential properties that foster network growth: frictionless transactions and scalability.
While active projects on the Ethereum network work to address these issues, the current environment often results in high fees for users as the network becomes congested. Transacting in Bitcoin (BTC) today is more akin to trading a commodity.
There are numerous possible solutions in play, from other currencies to a secondary transaction layer that exists on the same underlying blockchain.
Layer Two Tokens
Layer Two tokens are currently being built to help scale Layer One blockchain networks like Ethereum. We see significant value from investing in best-in-class Layer Two tokens.
Layer Two solutions play an important role in the world of Defi (decentralized finance), as they aim to offload some of the stress on the blockchain networks by assisting with the validation and transaction processing. In doing so, they alleviate network congestion, which often leads to slower transaction times and spikes in fees.
The main technology behind Layer Two scaling solutions is called Zero-Knowledge rollups. This process takes bundles of data off the blockchain for processing and computing using a smart contract. It is called Zero-Knowledge because it is based on Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs), which are a method of authentication where no passwords or personal information are shared. ZKPs enable the display of value without providing additional information.
This process helps significantly because the code is not run on the blockchain itself – allowing for faster processing. After the information is processed, it is sent back to the blockchain for other parties to verify.
However, successful investing in Layer Two tokens requires identifying both the consensus long-term Layer One winner (ETH, BTC, etc.) and the Layer Two solution that ultimately comes out on top.
*Editor’s Note: This post was excerpted from a special report titled, “The Blockchain Bottleneck.”