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If you haven’t been paying attention to cryptocurrency, it’s the perfect time to start taking notes. Blockchain started in a very unassuming way. However, it’s now a billion-dollar industry. Here’s how it happened.

Behind the Scenes of Bitcoin and Blockchain

In May 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz made Bitcoin’s first transaction by buying two pizzas in Florida for 10,000 BTC. Following this purchase, Bitcoin’s price grew 1000%, rising to $0.08 for a single bitcoin.

In April 2013, analysts laughed at Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss when they announced that they were purchasing $11 million in Bitcoin, at the rate of $120 per coin.

In 2014, Bitcoin reached a peak of about $1200 per coin, then dramatically fell to about $500, where it stagnated for some time.

Fast forward to 2017. The past few months have been a wild time for Bitcoin. While a single bitcoin rose in price to approximately $1000 in April of this year, prices are now hovering just below $8000, with the overall market capitalization of the currency at $120B. If you had invested in 2013 like the Winklevoss twins, you would have had a 60-fold return. And crypto experts expect this growth to continue through the end of this year.

What Makes Bitcoin Work

Bitcoin is decentralized, online currency. Secure algorithms regulate the currency supply and verify fund transfers. The most valuable part of Bitcoin is not the currency itself, though. The underlying technology, known as blockchain, is the secret sauce that is driving the price forward. Blockchain allows secure, verifiable transactions to occur across a network of devices.

For Bitcoin, there are no concerns about false transaction, bad payments, or duplication. There is no need for a regulatory group like a government treasury or a holding group like a bank because blockchain becomes the verification system.

Instead, all transactions are secure and decentralized. A network of platform users power the transactions. Although it sounds like large financial institutions should be shaking in their boots, many incumbent groups have their sights set on other ways to use blockchain.

Putting Blockchain to Work

One popular use of blockchain is Ethereum. Like Bitcoin, it uses blockchain. However, Ethereum is not designed specifically for financial transactions. Instead, it uses truth verification that powers cryptocurrency to create a platform for smart contracts between two parties.

Third parties can choose to use the Ethereum network to implement financial transactions. Yet, the underlying contracts can be applied to several types of transactions. In fact, Ethereum has an entire programming language called Solidity that allows developers to leverage the Ethereum platform for their own smart, secure contracts.

In the early days of Ethereum, it lacked serious traction. When prices were around $10 per ether (Ethereum’s coin), founder Vitalik Buterin sold a large amount of the Ethereum platform’s backing currency. This was the first “initial coin offering” (ICO.) From that event, they raised around $18 million. This catalyzed a movement for several technologies to sell part of their coin supply to kick-start their blockchain projects.

To date, technology built on the Ethereum platform has now raised more than a billion dollars through ICO events.

Other Growth Areas for Blockchain

ShipChain, a hot blockchain startup, is leveraging Ethereum to radically disrupt the multi-trillion-dollar freight industry. An intelligent, secure smart contract is created every time a shipping order is placed. That contract includes all of the important order information (shipping dates, locations, etc.). It generates an automatic verification upon delivery and confirmation.

The event logs are securely stored. Therefore, no one can alter or delete the information. By organizing logistics activity on the blockchain, ShipChain eradicates the need for expensive and error-prone brokers. At a high level, they are removing the single biggest point of friction from the entire industry—something only possible with blockchain technology.

No one could have predicted that Bitcoin, once worth less than a penny, would have the potential to pave the road for billions of dollars worth of innovation. Those who are hoping to catch the tail end of the early investor movement are trying to buy into Bitcoin before the price rises even higher.

However, as noted above, the true value of Bitcoin isn’t in the currency. It is in the blockchain technology. Its high price makes a sizable investment difficult. However, blockchain is gaining momentum.

An Evolving Blockchain Opportunity

For the risk-seeking investor wanting in on the blockchain movement, it’s time to look past Bitcoin. That was last year’s billion-dollar opportunity. The new question is what billion-dollar opportunity will blockchain open up in the next few years?

This is a hard question to answer objectively. In order to get in on new technology in time to make the investment worthwhile, it is important to find new implementations of the technology that have yet to have their ICO.

Groups like Aigang and Naga have their token sales coming up in the next few weeks, and those bullish on blockchain opportunities are keeping a close eye on those options. Those bearish on blockchain rightfully point out that neither group, despite all of the hype, have much more than a whitepaper on their side indicating how the technology will work in practice.

As the blockchain market evolves, it is clear that the landscape still has plenty of room for innovation, and that plenty of new projects are fighting to gain dominance in the space. Whether you plan on investing or not, this is a market worth watching—at least until the next big thing comes our way.