It’s a little less than two weeks since Crypto Bahamas began, but we’re still bringing out content from the conference, because, seriously, there was so much good alpha we couldn’t not share it.
During the conference, I sat down with Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, who was dressed in a pink blazer and flip flops, to discuss the current regulatory situation surrounding the crypto ecosystem, institutional firms entering the space, and the kind of crypto-focused company he would create if he decided to do so, among other things.
Read on for the full interview.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TechCrunch: What are your thoughts on policy in crypto right now. What are we going to see in the coming months with regard to regulation?
O’Leary: There’s a lot of excitement about the bipartisan bills that are going through The Hill right now.
Let’s just take inventory — we’ve got the [Senator] Cynthia Lummis bill that’s the granddaddy bill, it’s over 600 pages and contemplates all aspects of crypto.
Then we have [Senator Pat] Toomey and [Senator Bill] Haggerty’s bill that just focused on stablecoins, and so they’re much shorter bills more likely to pass first, which is why there’s so much excitement at this conference, because stablecoins represent a payment system that could make the U.S. dollar the digital currency globally.
People would probably do that before they took on any other currency; the problem is, there’s no policy, and although there are so many institutions showing up here, none of them own any bitcoin. None of them own any stablecoins. They own no crypto whatsoever, because it’s not a regulated security yet.
So think about this: At the end of the day, if policy comes through, there is going to be a huge number of index products within institutions, and that [could] get bitcoin moving again. That would get a lot of different aspects of the blockchain incorporated into sovereign pension plans. That’s the buzz of this conference right now.
TechCrunch: Fidelity recently said it was going to start allowing Bitcoin into retirement plans. How do you think that plays into the growth of what we’re going to see with digital assets in this space?
I was extremely skeptical about crypto, but became a big advocate when I started to see policy change in the Canadian market.
O’Leary: Well, there’s no question the “granddaddy” asset is Bitcoin. I mean, that is, you know, 40% of the market capitalization of all the tokens. So they’re choosing that first, for obvious reasons.
However, [Fidelity] also invested $200 million beside Blackrock in Circle, the company that issues USDC — that was unprecedented. So a $400 million [total investment], at a $9 billion valuation from the most conservative money managers on earth.
I think that gives you an indication of where we’re going with crypto. So Fidelity offering it at the consumer level and investing in the issuer is a big deal. More of that buzz, you know, it’s just a matter of when one of these bills becomes law. We’re close, but we’re not there yet.
TechCrunch: Do you talk to people who make laws, whether it’s in Congress or in the White House or anywhere about this? What are their views?
O’Leary: They realize that 80 million Americans have started investing in crypto. The genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, so what’s missing is policy. And yet, the reason I think you’re starting to see some motivation to get something done in Congress is, they’re seeing countries like Canada, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, advancing policy way ahead of the U.S.
So do they want to get a hold of this or not? Because if you think about what Bitcoin really is, it’s not a coin; it’s software. It’s software development, and the developers are not in the U.S. because the regulator doesn’t want them here yet. It seems that’s the feeling they have.
If they make [a nationwide] policy, they’ll start to get this talent back in the country. So I think, you know, Toomey, Lummis, all of these senators and congressmen and women realize we’ve got to be part of this industry. I actually think that crypto, in 10 years, will be the 12th sector of the S&P, and so we need to prepare for that. We want to own it and set policy for it. And we’re nowhere, so we’ve got to catch up, and that’s basically why there’s some kind of urgency to this now.