The Power of Sectors for Blockchain Investors

Popular cryptocurrencies sorted by category

(Courtesy Reddit user Wargizmo.)

Understanding sectors is like a crypto investing superpower.

Many people buy crypto without knowing what the company actually does. This is like buying a stock because your bookie recommended it. Smart stock investors research the underlying company, and smart crypto investors do the same.

The chart above is similar to the “business sectors” concept in the traditional stock market. Let’s explore the concept of sectors to learn to wield this superpower.

The Power of Sector Investing

Traditional stock market companies are assigned to the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) category. (Not the sexiest name. “Superpower” is much better.) The GICS has 11 sectors:

  • Energy
  • Materials
  • Industrials
  • Consumer Discretionary
  • Consumer Staples
  • Health Care
  • Financials
  • Information Technology
  • Telecommunication Services
  • Utilities
  • Real Estate

Sectors let you group companies by industry. If GICS lists the sectors of the stock market, this chart is an attempt to list the sectors of crypto:

Popular cryptocurrencies sorted by category

Sectors are like a superpower, because they help you see categories within the blockchain industry – a kind of X-ray vision. This gives you insights into which companies will be the winners in each crypto sector.

Put another way, it lets you predict which tokens may dominate their respective categories.

Compare this with the usual view of crypto — by market cap — and you can see this chart brings structure and order to the industry. It lets you pick a winner in the categories that matter.

As crypto investors, we must know our sectors. (Which rhymes.) Let’s review each sector in this chart in order of potential investment opportunities.

Store of value

Store of Value (excellent potential)

There’s really only one player here: bitcoin (BTC). While bitcoin has not widely caught on as a currency, it has caught on as a store of value, like “digital gold.” This is why, for example, more companies are storing part of their cash reserves in bitcoin.

This store of value argument is why many investors believe, “If you’re going to only invest in one digital asset, let it be bitcoin.” They believe that despite short-term volatility, bitcoin is an excellent long-term store of value. (Bitcoin is the foundation of our Blockchain Believers Portfolio.)

Distributed computingDistributed computing (excellent potential)

I would call this category “Blockchain platforms,” and it’s probably the easiest crypto investment decision, behind bitcoin. If you believe blockchain is here to stay, then people will need platforms to develop on it – in the same way they need Windows, Mac, or Android operating systems to develop apps.

Of course, the 800-pound gorilla in this category is Ethereum (ETH). In some ways, Ethereum seems like the most undervalued “company” in the world, with a global community of users, developers, and platforms being built on top of it at a furious pace. It can be seen as the infrastructure of the “Internet of Value.”

That said, Ethereum is not a lock: plenty of technology platforms rise to early dominance, only to lose their lead (Betamax, MySpace, IBM). Other worthy contenders include Binance Smart Chain (BNB), Cardano (ADA), and Solana (SOL).

We may end up with:

1) Ethereum as the clear leader and a handful of smaller blockchains specializing in niche applications. (Think about a virtual monopoly, like Google vs. all the other search engines.)

2) Two or three big competing blockchains (an oligopoly, like Windows vs. Mac OS).

Financial servicesFinancial services (excellent potential)

There’s a lot of hype in the blockchain industry, but in the case of Decentralized Finance (DeFi), the hype is probably warranted. In our view, DeFi platforms are so important to the future of finance that we’ve written several guides on How to Invest in DeFi, How to Evaluate DeFi, and How to Find DeFi Unicorns.

Using DeFi products is still a bit technical and wonky. Still, once you learn how they work, they are so much better than traditional financial products — like online banking and online brokerages — that there’s really no comparison. It’s like upgrading from travel agents to Google Flights. And DeFi apps will get even better.

DeFi investments are generally riskier: it’s the leading edge of the leading edge. But the potential returns are also much greater. If you want to invest in DeFi, consider the projects with the largest market cap: this generally means they have the most users, and are in a good position to become category leaders.

Exchange tokensExchange tokens (some potential)

Exchanges are a critical part of the blockchain ecosystem: it’s where you buy, sell, and trade one digital asset for another. Since this is the single largest use case for blockchain today (trading tokens), you’d think digital exchanges would be a perfect investment opportunity.

Given the continual tangle of legal and regulatory challenges, the challenge is that it’s hard to run a traditional exchange. Each country’s laws are constantly changing as they figure this stuff out, but blockchain is a global, borderless system that happens 24 hours a day.

The history of blockchain is already littered with the bodies of exchanges that have come and gone. Who will be left standing in the end? As Yoda might have said, “Impossible to see the future is.”

StablecoinsStablecoins (some potential)

Stablecoins—or digital assets that hold their value, typically 1:1 with the U.S. dollar—are one of the fastest-growing sectors in blockchain. The two behemoths are Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC), the latter issued by Circle, which will eventually go live as a publicly traded stock (see our guide on How to Invest in Circle).

The issue is that it’s hard to make money with stablecoins, since the price doesn’t move. You can, of course, earn “interest” on them (typically called “yield”) using new DeFi protocols (see our page of best DeFi interest rates). This can be a valuable part of an investing strategy, like storing part of your traditional money in a CD or money market fund.

Stablecoins are “safe,” but with low risk comes low reward. (And they’re not completely without risk — they could still be taxed out of existence by governments.) For bigger returns, look elsewhere.

Decentralised storageDecentralized storage (some potential)

Let’s say you have a massive hard drive – a couple of spare petabytes – and you’re only using a fraction of that storage space. You can “lease” your unused storage for others to use, then get paid in blockchain tokens. On the other side, users with massive files can “rent” the storage at a cheap rate.

This is the promise of decentralized storage, which is still in its early days, but interesting to watch. Filecoin (FIL) is the leader, and probably the best investment opportunity.

The key “tipping point” is if/when these decentralized storage systems begin to be widely adopted by companies and enterprises. Until then, most investors will probably “wait and watch.”

GamingGaming (some potential)

Blockchain economies are similar to video game economies: the kind where you buy real money to buy virtual goods, like custom skins and weapons. So there’s some overlap here, but certainly no category leader yet. It will be an interesting (and fun) space to watch.

We’ve also seen from the traditional videogame industry that there are thousands of games and hundreds of game publishers, but few that you’d consider an “investment.” Instead, intelligent investors would want to look for gaming platforms, like Xbox or Playstation (i.e., investing in MSFT or SONY).

Meta chainsMeta Chains (some potential)

These technologies provide blockchain interoperability—transferring data between Ethereum and Cardano, for example. Imagine investing in a company that provides interoperability between Windows and Macs. Those companies exist but are usually a tiny fraction of the overall Windows/Mac market. It’s probably best for most casual investors to hold off.

CurrencyCurrency (limited potential)

The great irony is that “cryptocurrencies” aren’t really currencies. So the “Currency” investments on the chart above are probably not great long-term investments. Ripple (XRP) could be the exception, as it is designed for a specialized type of payment — international money transfers — but Ripple is currently the subject of an SEC investigation (see our article on SEC vs. XRP).

The bigger issue is that dozens of governments are already working on their own Central Bank Digital Currency, which will offer the convenience of digital money, but backed by the government. Once CBDCs are rolled out at scale, why would people use any other digital currency?

Privacy coins

Privacy Coins (limited potential)

One reason you might use another currency is if you want to stay completely anonymous. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are only partially anonymous — you can still view the complete history of transactions on a blockchain — but privacy coins are a black box.

While privacy coins are used for legitimate reasons — to protect personal privacy or to escape tyrannical governments — they’re also used for shady transactions, which makes them unlikely to ever achieve widespread usage. Governments hate them. Plus, all the challenges listed in the “Currency” sector above still apply.

Wrapped bitcoins

Wrapped bitcoin (limited potential)

This is known as a derivative, or a digital asset built on top of another digital asset. The problem with derivatives is they get increasingly complicated and risky for most investors (I always link to the Selena Gomez scene from The Big Short).

Assets-built-on-assets leads to assets-built-on-assets-built-on-assets, and the whole Jenga Tower can quickly come crashing down (I always link to the Ryan Gosling/Steve Carrell scene from The Big Short).

Layer 2 ETH solutions

Layer 2 ETH solutions (limited potential)

This is new technology being built on top of Ethereum. For most investors, ask yourself the simple question: If you believe in Ethereum so much, why not invest in It?

(See our Investor’s Guide to Layer-2s for much more.)

Meme coins

Meme coins (limited potential)

Feel free to invest in Dogecoin, just because it’s fun. Especially if you think it’s fun to lose all your money.

(See our Investor’s Guide to Memecoins for the same message, but wordier.)

Specialised coinsSpecialized coins (mixed bag)

Finally, there’s the “everything else” category: are all the wonderful and weird experiments being tried on blockchain. These are worth watching to see which ones are getting traction and potentially seeding new sectors.

The Sector Superpower, Summarized

Investing in blockchain projects using a sector view is like having “laser eyes” in real life.

While everyone else is chasing “price trends,” or “social media sentiment,” or other crypto craziness, you can cut through the chaos.

Sectors give you a calm, logical view of blockchain investment opportunities by category. The process is:

  • Understand each sector.
  • Decide which sectors are going to be the most important, long-term.
  • Then find the 1 or 2 leaders in each sector.
  • Invest accordingly, following our Blockchain Believers Portfolio.
  • Profit.

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