The Asians have discovered a new cryptocurrency you've probably never heard of.
Ripple (XRP), a top five cryptocurrency with a whopping $46.2 billion market cap, is up 57.2% on Thursday, beating every major crypto coin out there and surpassing $1 for the first time, based on Coin Market Cap data.
"Asians are going mad for Ripple," says Alexey Ivanov, CEO and co-founder of Polynom Crypto Capital, a Moscow-based cryptocurrency and blockchain investment fund manager.
Today's price gains are largely driven by Asian crypto gamblers. Ripple has seen trading volumes increase over the last 24 hours by nearly 25% at South Korean exchange Bithumb and 10% on Bitfinex in Hong Kong. Ripple is like a Western Union using blockchain technology. It is a digital payment system that allows for discounts for its service for those who pay to use it in the Ripple coin. The company is run by CEO Brad Garlinghouse, who has held midlevel executive positions at AOL and Yahoo! between 2003 and 2012.
The company said last week that a coalition of 61 banks in Japan, organized by SBI Ripple Asia in Tokyo, will launch a new digital payments systems pilot program with Woori Bank and Shinhan Bank of South Korea using the Ripple blockchain network.
Cryptocurrency investors believe that Asia accounts for at least a third of all cryptocurrency trading volume, with the main adopters coming from Japan, South Korea and China via Hong Kong. While Ripple has a service, its large valuation is dependent on that service actually becoming a payments system companies will want to use. Nearly all startups issuing their own cryptocurrencies are massively overvalued, but investors are pouring into these new coins anyway. Those who are not worried about losing all of their investment capital believe they have nothing but upside once they get over the fact that their investment may become worthless. For those with serious money to burn, the upside is hard to ignore.
Investors who put $15 to work to buy just one bitcoin in Dec. 2012 now have over $15,000. Investors believe that if they put the same amount of money into ripple, or other lower priced coins, they might get a similar outcome. For traditional investors, none of this makes much sense, but in these early innings of the bitcoin hype, fundamentals don't matter.
Investors in these companies have to be prepared to lose their entire investment.
"Ripple started the year worth about one cent and is now at a dollar because of banks in Japan and South Korea testing the use of Ripple's technology for flash-transactions," says Ivanov. He does not hold XRP in any of his five blockchain-focused funds.
Japan and South Korean banks are expected to start test driving RippleNet in the first quarter. Ripple's San Francisco office was not yet open for immediate comment. The coin will primarily be used or institutions and not for retail transactions like Western Union or PayPal.
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