Mike Novogratz is one of Wall Street’s most successful traders and a famously aggressive player in the cryptocurrency space. According to Forbes‘s estimate at the beginning of this year, Novogratz’s crypto net worth was close to $1 billion.
But it’s unclear where his crypto fortune currently stands, because as much as he had won from Bitcoin’s early boom, the billionaire’s most ambitious crypto gambling coincided with its epic fall.
Novogratz was one of the few prophets who accurately predicted Bitcoin’s meteoric rise to $10,000 in December of 2017. Emboldened by the boom, the former hedge fund manager founded a cryptocurrency merchant bank called Galaxy Digital Holdings in January of this year. And that was exactly the beginning of Bitcoin’s free fall. In the weeks after Galaxy Digital’s debut, Bitcoin’s dollar value dropped from $19,800 to $6,000.
“I was the pretty face of crypto. Now I’m the ugly face,” Novogratz told Bloomberg BusinessWeek in a recent interview.
According to company filings, Galaxy Digital lost $136 million in the first nine months of 2018. Company shares have also tumbled 70 percent from its peak in August.
To be fair, Novogratz did see the crash of Bitcoin coming when the cryptocurrency began to turn around in early January after two months of exponential growth. But as it turned out, he had underestimated the scale of Bitcoin’s collapse by a wide margin.
“I did think Bitcoin was going to hold at $6,200. It stayed there for four months. It felt like the selling was finished,” he said, adding that his firm was still making money by then.
But things got a lot worse as the year went on. Last month, Bitcoin took another nose dive from its seemingly stable $6,000 price and has since lost nearly half the value.
“I’d never seen something go parabolic on a log chart before,” Novogratz said of Bitcoin’s recent price movement. “I thought, my God, this is the single craziest chart ever.”
As for Bitcoin’s future, early crypto bulls like Novogratz have divided views. Venture capitalist Tim Draper, for example, still believes that cryptocurrencies are the future of all currencies and that Bitcoin will hit $250,000 in a matter of years. (Bitcoin stands around $3,500 currently.)
But Novogratz holds a more conservative outlook. “While I believe in the underlying technology and believe in the crypto movement, when prices get stupid, I sell,” he said. “A lot of my friends in crypto just couldn’t let go.”
Although it’s hard to predict whether Bitcoin will come back to, or even past, its 2017 peak any time soon, one thing Novogratz is assured is that the government isn’t ready to kill crypto just yet. “The ICO market is pretty much dead right now… The SEC was behind the curve, so they slammed on the brakes,” he said. “But the SEC doesn’t want to kill this innovation.”
A realistic use case of cryptocurrencies, Novogratz said, could be tokenized securities: they will still be traded as securities but with enhanced security thanks to a blockchain infrastructure.
“These aren’t things that go from $1 to $1,000. They’re things that yield 14 percent, and they’ll be sold to qualified buyers,” he said of these hypothetical investment products. “That sounds a heck of a lot less sexy, but you’re going to see that business grow.”