Why Bitcoin's Growth is Normal and The S-Curves You Could Never See

Economists are up in arms, claiming that bitcoin’s 1000% annual growth is faster than anything they’ve ever seen. Because of that, they lash out, calling bitcoin volatile, a bubble, a pyramid scheme, etc. But don’t worry, James D’Angelo puts on his VC glasses to compare the 4.5-year-old bitcoin to facebook, twitter, google at the same periods in their growth. The result is that Bitcoin’s growth is as exponential, as volatile and as normal as any enormous tech giant. And just for fun we threw in a little bit about feral rats reproducing on a desert island.


Hello. This is James D’Angelo and welcome to the Bitcoin 101 Blackboard series. Today, we’re going to look at the growth rates of rats on islands. We’re going to look at Facebook and Twitter all to understand this big issue with Bitcoin, its phenomenal growth. So, there’s no one who’s a little bit curious about Bitcoin, has heard about Bitcoin and starts to get involved who hasn’t heard that Bitcoin has been growing at about a 1000 percent a year and this year it’s getting even more crazy.

So it started the year at around $12 or $13 per Bitcoin and now they’re worth around $340. That’s a growth rate this year of about 3000 percent. And this growth rate is driving people crazy, right? It’s scaring even the regular people who are investing. Okay. So, they’ve never seen something like this so they’re saying words like bubbles or some sort of pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme or something like that because the only things that they’re familiar with that have this kind of growth rates are those things. But there’s an issue with this. There’s actually some history with Facebook, Twitter, rats, bacteria and viruses that will help you understand Bitcoin’s growth and put it hopefully in a window of normalcy. Okay.

So, let’s take a look at rats. Okay. So, say you’ve got an island, right? And it’s a pretty good island. It’s got lots of fruit and vegetables and maybe some insects and all that. And on this island, right, you drop two rats. So at this beginning time T sub 0, you drop two rats. Okay. And as time moves, this is our time line and we’re going to look at T sub e, some ending time. Okay. And what happens is as you might expect is the rats land on this island, right? And they do really well. But if T sub end, if we know the end game right? If we know that there’s 20 million rats on this island at T sub e, at the ending time well, then we can probably draw the growth curve. Okay.

So what happens is the first pair of rats start to reproduce and they go from two to maybe four or eight in a year to maybe 16 or 32, right? But keep in mind compared to 20 million this line is basically on the green line, right? And then slowly it starts to grow exponentially the way populations grow. Okay. And this exponential growth again, because we’re looking at 20 million, doesn’t even really appear that big. Okay. So, even though you’re up at about thousand or ten thousand right now it’s really not that significant. But then exponential finally wins and you get up to your first million then immediately up to three four million and you get this amazing period when rats just seem to be reproducing everywhere and going crazy on the island and it’s not vertical but it’s so close to vertical that we’ll call this the vertical part of the S-Curve, Vertical.

So, the population increase per month is going up by thousands and thousands. Okay. And then what happens? Well, your island’s only got so much resources and the rats start to compete with themselves and eating all the resources and all that and then you reach sort of a saturation. Now, it’s clear that maybe they’ll overshoot and this will come down and settle out over here at the beginning maybe there will be some bad weather and then the population will drop near zero then recover and then there will be a good year with fruit, right? This curve we’re drawing you is the smooth curve, right? So, if this is 2000 years you’re going to see lots of bumps in this curve, right? Lots of what people might call bubbles or schemes or whatever, right? They’re all happening in this curve. So, if you smooth it out it makes this very famous thing called an S-Curve. Okay. And it’s not an S like you would expect, right? It’s not an S like this, because this is time over here and you can’t have the same population of rats having three different numbers. Okay. So, the S-Curves of population growth always look like that. Okay. And sometimes they’re steeper and sometimes they’re much more shallow.

Okay. So, this is an S-Curve that we’re looking at. But the interesting thing is the same S-Curve appears often with bacteria, right? Bacteria in your body, they start off, they’re multiplying like crazy, multiplying like crazy but then you really notice, right? The difference between one million and two million is a big jump on this because this is not logarithmic, right? This is a linear scale and you see these changes dramatically here even though it’s doubling every year. So, this is an exponential curve that might be doubling every year. Okay. So, bacteria in your body will do the same. They’ll multiply, multiply, multiply, multiply but you’ve only got so many cells in your body and it starts to go like this. Okay, or viruses.

Now, S-Curves aren’t the only way populations go, right? Famously the dinosaurs had nice exponential, exponential. Maybe they even saturated for a while and then they were gone. Okay. There is a number of things that can happen. You can start to go into this vertical area of your S-Curve, right? And who knows, say, humans land on and they kill all the rats, right? Or a disease kills all the rats or a flood or a drought. So, there is a number of things that can happen to a growth of a population, but it’s important to realize that this S-Curve not only works in biology but it also works in economics. And we’re going to look at two companies that have exhibited this S-Curve to a T. The first one really making the news, right, is Twitter. Okay. And the second one is Facebook. And we’re going to plot them on the same graph even though their beginning times and their IPO times were different, but we’re going to say here is TO, T original and then we’ll plow them up through their IPO’s over here. Okay. And this is important. This moment actually is important for any company, right? When you release your shares to the public. So, this point of time for any company is private and this is public. Okay. And we’re going to refer to that a bunch. And what this means is the public, anyone and any number of people can buy shares and in here the SEC controls how many people and who can buy shares.

Okay. So, let’s take a look at Facebook. So, Time original TO for Facebook was when Mark Zuckerberg starts programming his little baby and he’s doing that in 2004. So, he’s doing here and you’ve seen the movie, right? Facebook does pretty well right from the beginning, but pretty well right from the beginning compared to where it is now, right? Who knows they’ve got billions of users and the company was valued at 104 billion at the IPO, right? Means that even though it’s doing well, so here it’s got a thousand users, right? It’s got 10 thousand, 20 thousand users. It gets released to Stanford, right? You’ve got the first angel investors coming in and trying to give him 12 million dollars, right? And so the value of it is going up but it’s not going up in any exceeding way that you notice, but it’s still going up in terms of percentages. Pretty extreme so Bitcoin’s valuation is increasing a 100 to a 1000 percent a year and maybe more. Okay. So, this is a phenomenal growth rate, even though it sits here looking flat on our little curve, right? Because here it’s worth little more than zero so Time original. I don’t know, you might have been able to buy it off Zuckerberg for a coffee. Who knows on that first day though he seemed to have some idea that was worth something? So, it had some initial value. But clearly if you offered him a 104 billion he would have sold it so it was somewhere less.

All right, but he’s not the only one who determines the value of a company. There are other people there are angel investors and VCs that live over here on the private side. So these are – this area is for angels and VCs and over hear is for anyone. These angels and VCs actually look at Facebook every day of the year and try and figure out what the value is and of course Facebook just like the rats on the islands have some ups and downs, right? They’ll have some legal issues, you know, the Winklevoss, who knows who else was complaining and claiming ownership, who knows what other companies, right? There was Myspace still involved, there was other issues, right? So, again this curves going up and down but for the most part the valuation is doing this and it started in 2004 but around 2008 to 2009 it does this thing where on this graph it looks like it’s going vertical. And what’s happening. The number of users is just going through the roof. So they’re adding what? Millions of users a day. Okay. Whereas over here, you know, they’re waiting for their millionth user for a long time. So, this is the area where Facebook goes vertical and any chart you do a Facebook’s life history you’re going to see this section right and this section happens around 2008/2009. So, this is the vertical time and this is a very special time. This is when everyday things are going crazy. Okay. But it’s also important to note that it starts in 2004 and it takes five years. Even for this great idea that people recognize right away, right, people were willing to buy in right away it takes five years for the public to really understand it, really get it and start to use it in mass, right? And Facebook’s still growing, but it’s not growing at the same rate. So, here it’s growing at who knows 8000 percent a year and it might have been more. Now it’s growing at maybe 30 percent a year. So, that’s today so let’s put that over here. Right, it’s still growing maybe 30 percent a year. And of course it famously after the IPO the valuation dropped and it’s picked up and who knows what, right, but it’s still growing. But the thing we want to look at is this going vertical. Right?

And so now let’s take a quick look at Twitter. And we’ll do Twitter in this kind of bright yellow right here. So, Twitter their TO was February of 2006 when those four guys Williams, Dorsey and two other guys came up with the idea, right? And they’re bright guys they probably had some idea of what its value was. But when the IPO happened, right? Twitter was valued at 18 billion. So putting them on the same graph 18 billion and Twitter has the same thing, right? It’s invented here and then they released the website in May. So, the value to any VC now goes up and, you know, then it’s kind of got boring for a while no one was that excited then at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in 2007, right? So a year later they get a little bit of a buzz. They go from 20,000 tweets a day which is absurd now they get about 20,000 a second. They go from 20,000 tweets a day to 60,000.

So in 2007 there’s a big buzz and there’s also spike. Then some other issues happened, their value dropped but keep in mind they had still little changes that are phenomenal changes in value especially when you’re going from zero, right? This is zero and then more and more people are adopting Twitter, different people, NBA players are starting to look at blah-blah-blah and then it too has this kind of vertical moment on its graph. And this is natural right, this is exponential. Okay. But its rate of growth here was in the 100 percent a year, 200 percent a year and its rate of growth when it went vertical again is in the thousands of percent right, 3000/4000 percent. And then just like anything it’s going to reach a little bit of saturation. There’s only so many people on earth, only so many people that want to use a tweet to go, “Hey, I’m sitting here eating candy corn”. But Twitter’s a great service, right? They’re using it on the front lines for news, etcetera. But the key thing here again is it started in 2006. It had its vertical moment in 2010, even 2011, right? It’s still increasing pretty dramatically, but it’s also got a gestation time and this is very important of about four to five years.

Okay. So, even though Twitter is a great idea and Facebook’s a great idea and Google ran through the same curve, right? Even though they’re great ideas they take a number of years to develop and for a tech company it seems like if you’ve got an awesome idea it takes four to five years to really explode. But what’s key here is that if we’re talking about Twitter and Facebook and even if we throw in Google which followed the exact same curve before its IPO in 2004 what we’re seeing is that these are three very, very simple ideas, right? Google’s just a space right, you type in and you find what you want and that took years for the public to really get used to it and want to use it. Twitter you type in a 140 characters right and you send it to the world it’s as simple as can be. And again even that took years to catch on. Now everybody loves it. These are networks that are being developed, right? You can’t receive a Twitter unless you have some Twitter, right? And networks are faddish and they’re population based and they’re news based but they take a while to grow. Facebook’s the same. Well, you’re starting to make some analogies to what we mostly talk about which is Bitcoin.

Now, Bitcoin you can’t put on the same graph because again if it’s a tech thing it’s only been around four and a half years. So Bitcoin, we can only draw may be up to here. Okay. So, it’s been around four and a half years. It would be unfair to put it out here because it’s had no IPO. Of course it’ll never have an IPO or as some people suggested that the IPO was on day one. But Bitcoin started in January of 2009. So what is that? It’s almost five years. So, it’s about 4.5 to 5 years ago and, you know, if you compare here is 18 billion for Twitter. So, let’s divide that up into six. I don’t know. Here’s three billion which is where Bitcoin is today, right? And Bitcoin is doing pretty much the same thing. Okay. So, when people say that Bitcoin’s curve and its growth is unnatural all they have to do is think about bacteria, rats, Twitter, Google and you start to see that, sure Bitcoin could die tomorrow, right? I don’t know what could kill it but something could kill it, some crazy stock manipulation or some government regulation. Okay. If you really understand how Bitcoin works it seems unlikely that it’s going to be killed tomorrow by some simple thing. All right, and it’s a network based thing so the more people that use it the more value it has. But what’s key here is that Bitcoin is infinitely more complex than these three. It in fact is more complex than all three combined.

So, the learning curve for Bitcoin is enormous for two reasons. One, Bitcoin is just plain more complex. So, it’s possible just because of its complexity maybe we’ll see a vertical over here if indeed it ever has a vertical right? Because it is that much more complex, right? Bitcoin’s vertical at six years. But remember, so number one reason why it’s more difficult to grasp is that it’s more complex. Okay. You can do escrows, trust, enormous capability is inside this massive protocol that’s being compared to http, right? So there’s an enormous amount of directions that you can go with, but two, it’s also very difficult to grasp because it’s not a company. Because it’s not a company you’ve got no one advertising it trying to explain to the customer exactly how it can be done.

Bitcoin indeed waits on regular people to make little videos like ourselves, right, about Bitcoin. This would be done by Apple if they released a new product. This would be done by all these other companies. So, there’s no support, no internal support. So, it’s more complex much more complex and there’s no internal support to explain the ideas, but yet the world seems to be get to get, right? The numbers of people is going up every year. It’s got an exponential adoption curve. Okay. So, just like rats on the island, just like Twitter, just like Google, just like Facebook Bitcoin is doing that and just like all of these things it’s going up and down daily. So, and what this crazy up and down is this insane madness that exists here especially at the beginning of any company is referred to as volatility, right? And as one of the biggest critiques you hear about Bitcoin is insanely volatile, but if you’re an angel or a VC, right? And you’ve experienced companies from the beginning, you know that Facebook had a ton of volatility at the beginning, right?

There were people suing, there was trademark regulation stuff, there was Myspace trying to move in and take over their market, there were other companies coming in, right? The valuations of Facebook or Twitter or Google at the beginning were dangerous tasks because some days they’re really close to zero and they take the breath out of people. People see all their investment being lost. The volatility is at the beginning and because of SEC regulations, which we’ll talk about in the next video, you never get to see this volatility, right? This is private. This is information that the public really doesn’t know much about. We usually start to talk about a company and its value after it goes public. Well, that’s after it’s gone vertical. That’s after it’s had this insane growing pains, right? And this volatility, the VCs and angels learn to ignore. Okay.

If they see something that’s growing from zero to $3 billion some sort of an exponential rate they see something that reminds them a lot of Twitter, because Twitter after four and a half years was probably worth, right, around three billion, right? It hadn’t gone vertical yet but they saw signs of it, they saw a big adoption curves and that’s the same with Bitcoin. Remember as we talked about Bitcoin’s complex and maybe this vertical comes a little bit later. But what we’re seeing right now is the standard trend right? It’s gone from zero to three billion and the rest is all what’s the upside. And most people will say the upside’s going to be pretty high.

Okay. For Twitter which is all about, you know, sending your message out to the world. For Facebook which is like sharing with friends and photos, these are great services. Bitcoin’s offering is really groundbreaking, breathtaking services, right? Bitcoin is taking on the market that gold holds as a reserve currency. Bitcoin is taking on credit cards. Bitcoin is offering banking to 3.5 billion people who’ve never had banking. Bitcoin is moving into the space that everyone’s dreamed of having called micropayments. And Bitcoin seems poised to take on this 500 billion to one trillion dollar market of remittances. And we talk about all five of these in our big five series, but these are five known upsides. And because it’s a protocol, there are going to be other upsides, right? There’s a way for it to move in to escrows and trusts and wills and how stocks work and maybe even taking over the entire stock market.

These upsides are so big that VCs and angels right now are already predicting a valuation of well over one trillion dollars. And, if it is valued at one trillion dollars the other thing we know is that we know the number of stocks. There are twenty one million Bitcoins that will ever be in the system. Right now there’s around 12 million, but there will never be more than 21. So you take one trillion divided by 21 million and you get something a little bit over $46,000 per Bitcoin. And that’s if it just moves into these places where it’s got enormous upside. That’s if it just moves into the nine trillion dollar space for gold. Okay. Or moves into the trillion dollar space for credit cards.

Bitcoin’s got an enormous upside. It seems to be moving just as smoothly as some of these other companies move. It’s just the first time that we the public get to see it. And we’re going to cover this in our next video why the SEC regulations have made us blind to the normalcy of Bitcoin. But what we want you to understand is that the way Bitcoin is growing is normal. It’s as normal as any big monster tech company that you’ve ever seen. Hope the information helps. Please remember to like, subscribe, comment, do whatever you will do. We’ll check you out in the next video.

Written by James DeAngelo on November 12, 2013.