Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

MAR 16, 2021 AT 09:17 AM

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Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency invented in 2008 by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency began use in 2009,when its implementation was released as open-source software.

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. Research produced by the University of Cambridge estimated that in 2017, there were 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin. 

Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

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Bitcoin has been criticized for its use in illegal transactions, the large amount of electricity used by miners, price volatility, and thefts from exchanges.citation needed Some economists, including several Nobel laureates, have characterized it as a speculative bubble at various times. Bitcoin has also been used as an investment, although several regulatory agencies have issued investor alerts about bitcoin. 

The domain name "bitcoin.org" was registered on 18 August 2008. On 31 October 2008, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System4 was posted to a cryptography mailing list. Nakamoto implemented the bitcoin software as open-source code and released it in January 2009. Nakamoto's identity remains unknown. 

On 3 January 2009, the bitcoin network was created when Nakamoto mined the starting block of the chain, known as the genesis block. Embedded in the coinbase of this block was the text "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks".This note references a headline published by The Times and has been interpreted as both a timestamp and a comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking. 

The receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was cypherpunk Hal Finney, who had created the first reusable proof-of-work system (RPoW) in 2004. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software on its release date, and on 12 January 2009 received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto.Other early cypherpunk supporters were creators of bitcoin predecessors: Wei Dai, creator of b-money, and Nick Szabo, creator of bit gold. In 2010, the first known commercial transaction using bitcoin occurred when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz bought two Papa John's pizzas for 10,000.29 Bitcoins. 

Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

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Blockchain analysts estimate that Nakamoto had mined about one million bitcoins before disappearing in 2010 when he handed the network alert key and control of the code repository over to Gavin Andresen. Andresen later became lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation. Andresen then sought to decentralize control. This left an opportunity for controversy to develop over the future development path of bitcoin, in contrast to the perceived authority of Nakamoto's contributions. 

After early "proof-of-concept" transactions, the first major users of bitcoin were black markets, such as Silk Road. During its 30 months of existence, beginning in February 2011,

Silk Road exclusively accepted bitcoins as payment, transacting 9.9 million in bitcoins, worth about $214 million. 

In 2011, the price started at $0.30 per bitcoin, growing to $5.27 for the year. The price rose to $31.50 on 8 June. Within a month, the price fell to $11.00. The next month it fell to $7.80, and in another month to $4.77.35 

On 11 March 281,000 bitcoins were sold by owners who held them for only thirty days. This compared to 4,131 that had laid dormant for a year or more, indicating that the vast majority of the bitcoin volatility on that day was from recent buyers.79 During the week of 11 March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, cryptocurrency exchange Kraken experienced an 83% increase in the number of account signups over the week of bitcoin's price collapse, a result of buyers looking to capitalize on the low price.79 On 13 March 2020, bitcoin fell below $4000 during a broad COVID-19 pandemic related market selloff, after trading above $10,000 in February 2020. 

Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

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In August 2020, MicroStrategy invested $250 million in bitcoin as a treasury reserve asset.81 In October 2020, Square, Inc. put approximately 1% of their total assets ($50 million) in bitcoin.82 In November 2020, PayPal announced that all users in the US could buy, hold, or sell bitcoin using PayPal. On 30 November 2020, bitcoin hit a new all-time high of $19,860 topping the previous high from December 2017.84 Alexander Vinnik, founder of BTC-e, was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison for money laundering in France while refusing to testify during his trial.85 In December 2020 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company announced it has purchased $100 million in bitcoin, or roughly 0.04% of its general investment account. 

On 19 January 2021 Elon Musk placed #Bitcoin in his Twitter profile tweeting "In retrospect, it was inevitable", which caused the price to briefly rise about $5000 in an hour to $37,299.87 On 25 January 2021 Microstrategy announced it continued to buy bitcoin and as of the same date it had holdings of 70,784 worth $2.38 billion. On 8 February 2021 Tesla's announcement that it had purchased $1.5 billion in bitcoin and planned to start accepting bitcoin as payment for vehicles pushed the bitcoin price to an all time high of $44,141.89. On 18 February 2021, Elon Musk said that "owning bitcoin was only a little better than holding conventional cash, but that the slight difference made it a better asset to hold". 

It was announced in September 2020, that the Canton of Zug (in Switzerland) will start to accept tax payments in bitcoin from February 2021. 

Now, moving on to Bitcoin bought by Elon Musk. 

Tesla announced Monday it has bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. 

Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

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In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it bought the bitcoin for “more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash.” 

Tesla also said it will start accepting payments in bitcoin in exchange for its products “subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis.” That would make Tesla the first major automaker to do so. The $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin will give Tesla liquidity in the cryptocurrency once it starts accepting it for payments.

Tesla’s move into bitcoin represents an investment of a significant percentage of its cash in the investment. The company had more than $19 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of 2020, according to its most recent filing. 

The moves raise questions around CEO Elon Musk’s recent behavior on Twitter, where he has been credited for increasing the prices of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and dogecoin by posting positive messages that have encouraged more people to buy the digital currencies. 

Two weeks ago, the billionaire Tesla owned added the hashtag #bitcoin to his Twitter bio, a move that helped to briefly push up the price of the cryptocurrency by as much as 20%. Two days later, he said on the social media chat site Clubhouse: “I do at this point think bitcoin is a good thing, and I am a supporter of bitcoin.” 

Bitcoin prices surged to new highs Monday following Tesla’s announcement, reaching a price of at least $44,200. Tesla shares were up more than 2% Monday morning. In its SEC filing, Tesla warned investors of the volatility of bitcoin’s price. 

Why Elon Musk and Tesla Invested Into Bitcoin

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Musk has gotten into trouble for his market moving tweets in the past, but it’s unclear how that applies to his tweets about cryptocurrencies. Most notably, the SEC charged Musk with fraud in 2018 for his tweets about taking the company private at $420 per share. 

Musk ultimately settled with the SEC, and was forced to give up his role as chairman of the company’s board and pay a $20 million fine on top of another $20 million fine for the company itself.