The greatest winners and losers of the crypto trade in 2021


The cryptocurrency and Blockchain trade skilled explosive expansion in 2021, specifically in its decentralized finance (DeFi) and nonfungible token (NFT) sectors. 

The yr used to be additionally marked by way of persevered value volatility, baffling habits from China, a grand experiment in Central America, escalating institutional pastime, and the upward thrust of a few sooner smart-contract networks — all of which is mirrored on this yr’s record of trade “winners and losers.”

Winners in 2021


When China successfully banned Bitcoin (BTC) mining operations in May 2021, Kazakhstan rushed in to fill the vacuum, pitching displaced miners and others on its affordable and abundant coal provide. Many arrange operations within the Central Asian nation, together with a top-five Crypto mining pool operated by way of BIT Mining.

By July 2021, Kazakhstan’s reasonable per 30 days hash price percentage stood at 18.1% — this is, it accounted for just about a 5th of the sector’s Bitcoin mining output, moment handiest to the United States (42.7%), and a surprising build up from only one.4% in September 2019, in line with the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

Whether Kazakhstan will care for its international percentage of BTC mining in 2022, given experiences of popular energy shortages within the nation as wintry weather approaches is still observed.


Coinbase Global, the most important cryptocurrency substitute within the U.S., was the primary Crypto corporate to record on a U.S. inventory substitute when it debuted on April 14 on Nasdaq. It closed that day at $328.28 with a marketplace capitalization of $86 billion, a surprising release that invited comparisons with Facebook’s and Airbnb’s preliminary public choices. Its percentage value got here again to earth by way of yr’s finish, on the other hand, status at $243.35 on Dec. 18, with a still-strong marketplace cap of $52.37 billion.

Coinbase’s checklist used to be extensively seen as any other signal that Crypto had long past mainstream, with extra public choices to return. “Coinbase would be the torchbearer for the entire Blockchain neighborhood within the public marketplace,” Kavita Gupta, founding managing spouse at Delta Growth Fund, advised Cointelegraph.


A tide of recent wise contract-enabled networks emerged at the scene in 2021. The greatest and fastest-growing amongst them used to be Solana, a really perfect fast proof-of-stake community that says to have clocked 50,000 transactions in line with moment (TPS). By comparability, Ethereum does about 30 TPS.

“No undertaking — possibly in Crypto’s historical past — has gotten warmer, sooner than Solana in 2021,” wrote Messari’s Ryan Selkis. The open-source Blockchain hosts a rising choice of NFT and DeFi tasks, even supposing it used to be matter to a number of allotted denial-of-service assaults via 2021. Solona’s (SOL) local cryptocurrency with ease ranks 5th amongst all cash as of Dec. 20, in line with Cointelegraph Markets Pro, trailing handiest BTC, Ether (ETH), Binance Coin (BNB) and Tether (USDT).

Nayib Bukele/El Salvador

El Salvador made historical past in 2021 — turning into the primary nation to claim Bitcoin (BTC) felony mushy. The nation’s dynamic president, Nayib Bukele, captivated the Crypto international together with his doings: harnessing power from a volcano to energy his nation’s BTC mining operations, air-dropping $30 of BTC to each and every grownup within the nation, and, in overdue November, saying the release of Bitcoin City, an absolutely practical town constructed round Bitcoin, funded to start with by way of $1 billion Bitcoin bonds.

Only time will inform whether or not all this quantities to a transparent financial “win” for El Salvador’s other people, however Bukele arguably, via purchasing the dips, introduced some Twenty first-century innovation and luster to a deficient Central American land whose financial system is closely depending on remittances — i.e., cash despatched house by way of international staff.

Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple

When artwork area Christie’s publish for public sale in February a virtual collage — the primary main public sale area to provide a purely virtual paintings with a novel NFT — it didn’t even connect a worth. No one knew the best way to price it. The paintings “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by way of Mike Winkelmann (aka Beeple) bought for $69.3 million, and the artwork trade would possibly by no means be the similar.

Related: NFT ‘artwork revolution’: Beeple on his 5,040-day hard work of affection, Cointelegraph Magazine

To put this into context: The paintings fetched extra at public sale than items by way of Georges Seurat, Paul Gaugain or Salvador Dalí, and catapulted the somewhat difficult to understand Beeple into the corporate of the sector’s highest-earning recent artists, similar to David Hockney and Jeff Koons. It additionally despatched realize to these out of doors the cryptoverse that nonfungible tokens could be a drive with which to be reckoned. Sales of NFTs skyrocketed via 2021, and in overdue November, “NFT” used to be declared “phrase of the yr” by way of dictionary writer Collins.


Avalanche used to be any other fast wise contract community that shot into the highest 10 in 2021. “Solana and Avalanche are the brand new stars” amongst DeFi multichains, declared CoinGecko, with 6% and a pair of% overall price locked (TVL), respectively, within the 3rd quarter. (Avalanche hosts the Aave DeFi protocol.) Those TVL good points got here on the expense of Ethereum, which held nearly all DeFi TVL on the yr’s starting (99%). Its percentage used to be 76% on the finish of the 3rd quarter by way of comparability.

Avalanche’s local forex, AVAX, is ranked tenth in marketplace price in overdue December at $27.3 billion, which is buoyed arguably by way of its handle Deloitte to beef up the consulting company’s paintings with the U.S.’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sam Bankman-Fried/FTX

In 2021, Sam Bankman-Fried used to be declared “the richest individual in Crypto” in large part at the energy of his possession stake in FTX, the cryptocurrency derivatives substitute, which he based in 2019.

By the tip of 2021, FTX had transform the second-largest Crypto derivatives substitute, in line with CoinGecko, trailing handiest Binance (Futures). Messari referred to as FTX “the fastest-growing corporate of all time,” noting that Bankman-Fried had constructed a $25-billion endeavor in lower than 3 years with fewer than 100 staff.

FTX closed a $900-million investment spherical in July that valued the substitute at $18 billion, up from $1.2 billion previous, with participation from CushyBank, Sequoia Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Multicoin, VanEck and the Paul Tudor Jones circle of relatives, amongst others. In June, FTX received the long-term naming rights to the Miami Heat’s NBA basketball enviornment.


The NFT phenomenon has been a boon for virtual artists who can promote their works with out brokers and bodily artwork galleries, however they nonetheless want virtual marketplaces. OpenSea, a primary mover within the NFT artwork sector and the main market, emerged as one of the crucial yr’s greatest winners.

OpenSea takes a somewhat modest 2.5% fee for each and every sale on its platform, however this yielded a considerable $79 million in income in August, its height month in 2021, in line with Cointelegraph consulting. Through a part of November, revenues exceeded $235 million YTD. Come December, no longer a lot had modified: “The international’s dominant NFT market is raking in money give up fist,” mentioned Messari.

ProStocks ETF

A barrier of varieties used to be surmounted in mid-October with the release of the primary Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) sanctioned by way of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The ProStocks Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) made a dramatic debut at the New York Stock Exchange because the second-most closely traded opening-day fund on file, with some calling it “a watershed second for the Crypto trade.”

Its release ended 8 years of futility at the a part of U.S. fund issuers — a Winkelvoss ETF used to be the primary to be rejected by way of the SEC again in 2013 — however some have been however upset that the step forward fund used to be a futures-based ETF and didn’t observe the cost of Bitcoin (BTC) at once. The SEC it seems that most popular to have two layers of regulatory coverage — i.e., supervision by way of each the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the SEC — and this used to be additional showed a number of weeks later when the SEC rejected VanEck’s software for a spot-market ETF.

Losers in 2021


China managed two-thirds (67%) of the sector’s Crypto mining manufacturing as lately as September 2020, however in May, it banned mining operations for causes nobody actually is aware of, but it surely possibly used to be associated with a necessity to offer protection to its personal central financial institution virtual forex (CBDC), which seems as regards to its complete roll-out.

In any tournament, Bitcoin’s hash price instantly dropped 50%, which roiled markets for slightly. Other countries temporarily picked up the mining slack, on the other hand, together with the U.S., Kazakhstan, Russia and Canada. In retrospect, many seen China’s motion as a present to the West. “Today the [Bitcoin] community is extra decentralized than ever and value has risen 50%,” mentioned analyst Willy Woo.

Meta (Diem)

Facebook’s Libra stablecoin undertaking (now Diem) used to be introduced in 2019 with nice fanfare and a blue-chip roster of companions, however the undertaking used to be incessantly behind schedule and its scope diminished. Today, one doesn’t listen an excessive amount of about Diem with the exception of possibly in regards to departures — e.g., Dante Disparte left for Circle, whilst extra lately, David Marcus, head of cryptocurrency actions, mentioned he would go away the corporate by way of yr’s finish.

Facebook, rebranded as Meta, has been beneath fireplace from U.S. lawmakers for the “affect” it exerts over social media most often, and its stablecoin undertaking, as soon as slated to debut in early 2021, will have been collateral harm. There isn’t a lot readability in any tournament. As The New York Times commented, “The Libra cryptocurrency used to be ultimately rebranded Diem, whilst the corporate’s efforts at a Crypto pockets have been referred to as Novi. The mishmash of names frequently has been complicated, even for corporate insiders.”

Central Bank of Nigeria

In February, the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered all its native banks to close down the accounts of consumers the use of cryptocurrencies. The CBN’s governor mentioned maximum Crypto accounts have been getting used to fund “illegitimate” actions similar to cash laundering and financing terrorism.

Nigeria is predicted to quickly release a central financial institution virtual forex, like China, so possibly the CBN used to be following China’s playbook of clearing away all competing Crypto operations in anticipation of its CBDC roll-out. If so, its effort failed dismally.

Not handiest did Crypto continue to exist, however by way of August, Nigeria had the sector’s second-largest marketplace for peer-to-peer Bitcoin buying and selling.

Virgil Griffth

There used to be a time when Virgil Griffith used to be one thing of a purpose celebre within the Crypto international. The former Ethereum developer and U.S. citizen traveled to North Korea in early 2019 to wait a cryptocurrency convention. In November of that yr, he used to be arrested in Los Angelos for violating U.S. sanctions regulation.

“I don’t suppose what Virgil did gave DRPK any roughly actual lend a hand in doing the rest dangerous. He delivered a presentation in accordance with publicly to be had data about open-source instrument,” declared Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin round that point.

In September 2021, simply sooner than his prison trial used to be to start, Griffith “pleaded responsible to conspiring to violate U.S. regulation by way of touring to North Korea to provide a presentation on the best way to use Blockchain generation to launder cash and evade sanctions,” the Wall Street Journal reported. He may withstand six-and-a-half years in jail as a part of the plea deal. It used to be unclear what brought about him to switch his plea.

Iron Finance (TITAN)

Maybe it’s no longer such a good suggestion collateralizing a stablecoin — e.g., IRON — with any other stablecoin in USD Coin (USDC) and an difficult to understand governance token (TITAN). In this situation, the end result used to be what used to be described as “the sector’s first large-scale Crypto financial institution run” — in particular, a run at the Iron Finance protocol. The consequence: TITAN plummeted from a worth of greater than $60 to a couple of thousandths of a cent inside of a couple of hours in overdue June.

CipherTrace later mentioned the incident used to be the results of a design flaw: “Iron.Finance lacked a right kind stabilizing mechanism.” But within the interim, a variety of buyers have been burned, amongst them Dallas Mavericks proprietor Mark Cuban, who referred to as for legislation to resolve “what a stablecoin is and what collateralization is suitable.” Iron Finance (ICE) used to be buying and selling at round $0.002 on Dec. 20.

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