Tesla owns $1.5 billion bitcoin. Let the corporate FOMO begin

Look, I don’t need to tell you what happened: it was covered in pretty much every single news and news-adjacent outlet in the world. But let’s not mince words here. The richest person on Earth announcing that his company, the tenth most valuable asset on Earth, had poured 8% of its cash reserves into bitcoin is the kind of event that even the most fervent BTC maximalist circa 2017 would have straight-up laughed at.

It was amazing when hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones first invested in bitcoin as a hedge against inflation. It was incredible when Michael Saylor catapulted Microstrategy, his small-scale business software player, onto the global scene by investing pretty much all their cash into BTC. It was almost unbelievable when PayPal announced that they were rolling out crypto services to their hundreds of millions of users.

Yet even by those standards Elon’s Tesla bet is a big deal. Sure, he may be a pot-smoking, pot-stirring billionaire eccentric. But he’s also one of the single most prominent corporate figures in the world, with an ironclad, legal obligation to his shareholders to maximise his company’s value. And bitcoin is now part of that strategy. I reckon some other companies might be taking notes.

In retrospect, it was inevitable

Over the long years of bitcoin’s post-2017 winter, the idea that institutions might one day see the purpose and value in crypto was one of those thoughts that kept us warm while the rest of the world viewed us as a laughing stock.

But I can’t recall anyone ever seriously proposing that a publicly listed company would one day hold bitcoin on their balance sheet. Hedge funds making a speculative bet? Sure. A company fleeing the safety of US dollars for bitcoin? Not in a million years. There’d be a shareholder revolt!

It speaks to how profoundly COVID-19 has changed our ideas around money that, while certainly a surprise, Tesla plunging $1.5 billion into bitcoin is being greeted not as the unhinged actions of a madman, but as a rational response to the potential collapse of fiat value. The US has, after all, printed 30% of all the US dollars ever printed in the last 12 months. Not an available option with bitcoin.

Mars mission initiated

The immediate response to the Tesla investment was predictably euphoric. The bitcoin price surged almost 30%, topping out at a shade over US$49,000. Twinned with the retail-fuelled fallout from the Gamespot/Robinhood debacle (which caused exchange sign-ups to surge to unprecedented levels), the whole market started melting up. Major coins were doing 50% days. Minor coins were doubling weekly. Forget $50k; $100k was just a matter of time.

Yet euphoria and a sense of inevitability are two of the most reliable top indicators there are. A correction here would allow the market to execute “maximum pain” on new and leveraged participants, one of its favourite pastimes. And right now most crypto charts look less like an ascending rollercoaster than they do a line drawing of the Burj Khalifa. Gravity is going to kick in sooner or later.

Long story short: it is probably a matter of time until bitcoin starts its irresistible journey to $100k. But nobody knows when that time might be. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be in six months. The only (almost) certainty is that Tesla won’t be the last company to buy bitcoin. (Two weeks ago, Microstrategy ran a conference to help companies looking to buy bitcoin; more than a thousand attended). Consider this our window before the corporate FOMO really sets in.