The institutions are paying attention. Now comes the hard part.

It’s clear that institutions have gotten the message that crypto is open for business — but what now?

article-image modified by Blockworks


The institutions are here! 

It’s long been seasonal fashion within the crypto industry to declare, with great aplomb, that the institutions — the investors, the banks, the family offices, the money — are coming. I remember when Barry Silbert declared this forthcoming arrival all the way back in 2013, when he and his team first debuted the Bitcoin Investment Trust. 

Wandering the sidelines of Blockworks’ Digital Asset Summit in London this week, what once seemed an ephemeral milestone appeared to be indisputably true: The institutions are here.

Maybe they’ve been here a while, or perhaps they’ve just entered through a side door. Bitcoin ETFs arguably deserve the bulk of the credit. So, too, does the leapfrogging price of bitcoin (today’s volatility notwithstanding). Or Larry Fink, the BlackRock CEO and the premier spokesperson for crypto in an institutional age, may be the one to thank.  

Certainly the conversations on stage in London this week speak to this reality. From enterprise hardware to market structure, the discussions have taken an institutional presence as a given. 

When exactly did they show up? What are they here for? As my colleague David Canellis noted in his wrap-up of DAS London’s first day, these are difficult questions to answer. And there may not be just one reason: Exposure to new asset classes, new technologies or perhaps simply a new way to make money could all be factors. 

DAS London is, perhaps, a meeting-point between the institutions and the startups who hope to attract their business, their investments, or at the very least, their time. 

To put a finer point on it, it’s clear that the institutions have gotten the message that crypto is open for business. Their business, specifically. 

That’s great. But now what?

What happens from this point on will be less flashy, perhaps less headline-y than early industry phases. I’m talking about the grind, the unsexy, the day-to-day work. Attracting institutions to one’s custody platform or trading platform is one thing. What’s next once they’ve settled in?

I underestimated the market pile-on spurred by the launch of the current crop of bitcoin ETFs. I believed growth would be slow at first. I was wrong

Beyond bitcoin ETFs, though, I wonder how slow-going the spread of institutional activity will be within crypto. It’s hard to see traders at major financial institutions apeing into the latest memecoin or dropping millions of dollars on a picture of a dog in a hat

Read more from our opinion section: DeFi needs institutions — and regulation 

But the networks themselves — I’m thinking Bitcoin, Ethereum and Solana — are booming. It’s easy to imagine that perhaps some of that upward momentum is driven by the major players who, by all appearances, are now in the room and seeking opportunities. 

“Infrastructure building” has been a common refrain here in London. Namely, building the rails for institutions to become more comfortable in the somewhat volatile crypto pond. In a way, that’s what the bitcoin ETFs are: infrastructure for institutions to move money into crypto that feels safer and more familiar than a memecoin or NFT.

There’s no short supply of crypto ambition here in London. The good times feel especially good. But history rhymes in this space, and an FTX-scale disaster will happen again. 

Will institutions stick it out during the next crypto hurricane? That’s an open question, and I think the investments and development decisions being made today will prove to be deciding factors. Stay tuned. 

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