The meteoric rise in the price of bitcoin – which surpassed $16,000 (U.S.) on Thursday – has buoyed the hopes of cryptocurrency enthusiasts, even as concerns about a bubble continue to mount.
On Wednesday, hundreds of money managers, tech investors and entrepreneurs crowded into the Fairmont Royal York hotel for a one-day conference hosted by GMP Securities, focused on cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underlies them.
The conference – one of many blockchain and cryptocurrency-related events hosted throughout the city in recent months – came as the price of bitcoin continued its recent red-hot streak. Less than two weeks ago, bitcoin was just crossing the $10,000 threshold.
Marc van der Chijs, co-founder of digital currency investment fund First Block Capital, cautioned that a price correction may be imminent. But he doesn't expect the current volatility to subside until the price of bitcoin climbs to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Right now, it goes up 25 per cent a day, which is crazy," Mr. van der Chijs said. "We're probably going to see it crash in a few days, I assume. I mean nobody really knows, but this is just too much."
There have been a flood of new entrants into the blockchain space in recent months, causing skeptics to liken it to the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, which obliterated more than $1.7-trillion of stock market value when it burst in 2000.
Mat Cybula, chief executive of blockchain investment and technology company Cryptiv, said there are "absolutely" bubble-like qualities in the cryptocurrency space today. In fact, it's impossible to have a conference about blockchain and cryptocurrencies without using the "b-word," he told attendees at the GMP conference.
But that doesn't diminish the fact that there's a real value proposition as well, Mr. Cybula added.
"It's clear that this is a new asset class and it's here to stay, and even though there's a bit of mania, there's real value here," Mr. Cybula said.
The current run-up in the price of bitcoin has caused delays in transaction times. Michael Gokturk of Vancouver-based virtual currency exchange Einstein, said some transactions have been delayed by as much as 24 hours as the bitcoin network has been overwhelmed by demand.
When Einstein launched about 90 days ago, there was roughly $3-billion of bitcoin transactions a day, Mr. Gokturk said. Now, that transaction volume is up to $30-billion a day.
That's led to delays because the system was not built for that kind of volume, Mr. Gokturk said.
"Bitcoin was never designed for enterprise transactions," Mr. Gokturk said in a telephone interview. "It was designed for peer-to-peer borderless transfers."