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A ‘Visa Cryptocurrency’ Might Only Be Worth $3 Billion: Napkin Math

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:09 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:09 PM

Critics of the Bitcoin community’s decision to pursue a development path that prioritizes the coin’s utility as a store of value often allege that a payments-first focus is necessary to create a “base level of demand” for a cryptocurrency.

However, writing on Twitter, BitGo co-founder Ben Davenport makes the case that the payments use case creates an almost negligible base level of demand since the network’s users would only need to hold the token as long as necessary to execute a desired payment.

Davenport was responding to Civic CEO Vinny Lingham, who made the claim that a “crypto has to have real utility & usage to support the price” because otherwise, it will crash when speculative cycles run their course.

Davenport argued that this theory has a major hole in it.

To illustrate his point, Davenport envisioned what would happen if credit card giant Visa — which processes $9 trillion in payments per year and currently has a market cap of more than $294 billion — replaced its system with a cryptocurrency that could settle and convert transactions into local currency within one hour.

By doing a bit of napkin math ($9 trillion / 365 days / 24 hours * 3 to account for extra volume on peak shopping days), he demonstrated that the base level of demand for a payments-focused cryptocurrency — that is, the minimum amount of capital tied up in transactions at any given time — is just $3 billion.


Davenport acknowledges that many users would likely hold onto Visa’s cryptocurrency for longer durations, but this factor, he says, is “less dependent on its usability for payments” and instead linked to convenience and the coin’s perceived utility as a store of value. Hodling, he alleged, creates far more base demand than payments ever could.

“The fact is, a HODLer choosing to hold a coin for even 1 month is 720 times as effective at generating base demand as the payments use case in our example,” he concluded. “Payments is not the only use case for coins, but if you don’t have major demand sinks in your model… look out.”

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