In its early days, Bitcoin might have been dismissed as a quirky tech sector fad.
But it is rapidly evolving into the mainstream and has already made some people rich.
If once Bitcoin was seen as a tool for money launderers and drug dealers, it has recently become as commonplace a topic at middle-class dinner parties as house prices.
There are advertisements on the London Underground proposing ways to invest. It’s been on the newspaper front pages.
There are anecdotes of taxi drivers who say they’ve borrowed money to buy Bitcoin.
And every day, another expert cautions investors that these are just the kinds of things to watch out for if you want to avoid investing in a bubble that’s about to burst.
So who is still holding onto their Bitcoins, as the price continues to fluctuate?
‘It’s been really exciting… being part of a crazy wave’
Alessandra Sollberger, 29, first invested in Bitcoin in 2012 when each was worth about $9. She had been reading about it on tech blogs.
She says she was intrigued by the concept of this new “libertarian and decentralised perspective”.
“I thought, I can put a little bit into it, because I wanted to have a bit of a stake in something I found exciting. A way to be part of what was happening.”
When its value rallied in 2013, she began to cash in her investment.
“I had made nine times my investment, which I was pretty satisfied with,” she says. She took out £20,000 to start her own London-based “superfoods” business, Evermore Health. Over the years, her Bitcoin stake has yielded £80,000 to support her business.
She’s cashed in some to treat herself to a kite-surfing holiday in Zanzibar in the new year. But she still owns the equivalent of about 20 whole Bitcoins, around $300,000 worth, although she has diversified into other digital currencies to hedge her bets.
“It’s about being part of this crazy wave,” she says.
But she thinks there’s a lot of hype. And she’s not convinced that out of all the different cryptocurrencies out there, Bitcoin will necessarily be the one that prevails.
“There are currencies that have gone up more than Bitcoin has,” she says. pointing out that often the groundbreaking first version of a new technology is overtaken by better models as the market develops.
So does she allow Bitcoin payments at her own business? “We’re thinking about it for next year,” she says.
Story courtesy of BBC News