The return of crypto winter—a term that describes periodic downturns that batter the crypto industry—is leaving everyone feeling cold. The most common question on the lips of retail traders and fintech giants alike is “When will it end?”
If FTX CEO and multi-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried is right, the depths of winter have likely passed already and spring is on the way.
“I think we’ve already seen the worst of it; there’s a little more to come, but it’s not very bad,” Bankman-Fried, who is better known as SBF, told Fortune for an exclusive cover story.
“I think some bitcoin miners are going to have some issues, but I think we’re talking a few 100 million dollars total of pain there, not billions,” he added.
But the 30-year-old added an important caveat to his rosy prediction: crypto winter is ending, but only if the economy doesn’t endure further large external shocks that tanked stock and crypto prices in the first place.
“If the Nasdaq has another 25% left to drop, and if interest rates are actually going up to 7%, and if we’re going to be in a recession for two and a half years—in that world, I think Bitcoin might go down to $15K or $10K. Then there may be a new round of carnage that comes from that,” he noted.
The recent crypto winter brought what was once a $3 trillion asset class temporarily below $1 trillion in cumulative market cap. The tumbling prices sent Bitcoin, which makes up 41% of the crypto market, to lows not seen since the height of the pandemic in December 2020. At $22,900 as of Friday, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency is still trading down about 51% from where it started the year.
The metaphorical cold also flash froze a number of once-thriving crypto companies such as Three Arrows Capital, Terraform Labs, and Voyager Digital.
But FTX has weathered the storm, and, in fact, SBF said the downturn has “been a healthy weeding out,” for the industry.
“I think that people have had to rethink about how to value assets and had to be a little more grounded in it and realize that the ungrounded thinking only works during euphoric times,” he told Fortune.
Because FTX has done better than others during the downturn, Bankman-Fried has gone on a spending spree that has turned him into either a white knight figure or a modern day robber baron depending on your perspective.
This year, FTX bought stakes in stock exchange IEX Group Inc. and stock trading platform Robinhood. In the crypto space, FTX has provided millions in liquidity to crypto lender BlockFi with the option to buy and last month offered to buy all of bankrupt crypto platform Voyager’s digital assets and most of its loans, in a joint proposal with two other SBF-led companies.
To learn more about where SBF sees crypto prices going, as well as his insights on dealmaking and the future of the industry, be sure to check out the full Fortune conversation.
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