Update March 2021: This post was written in 2018, and while some of the details may be outdated, the general information is still relevant today.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about cryptocurrency. The opportunities currently available in this space, it seems to me, are too good to pass up. 2017 was the year crypto went mainstream and the next few years, I am guessing, are going to be wild. If you want to learn about this too, here are some of the resources I’ve found useful so far.
A quick disclaimer: This is all my opinion and none of it is financial advice. It is simply my take on what I’ve been learning recently, written up for educational and informational purposes. Always do your own research when making decisions with money!
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Basics
It is important (and actually necessary) to understand the technology behind this at a basic level before buying any.
The best compilation of general resources for crypto and Bitcoin I’ve found is here: http://lopp.net/bitcoin.html On that page you’ll find links to beginner guides, videos, online courses, blogs and more.
Andreas Antonopoulos is a Bitcoin enthusiast whose talks are one of the best ways to learn about Bitcoin. His appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience were among the first ways I began to go down this rabbit hole. Here is an introductory talk:
The Hash Power podcast series by Patrick O’Shaugnessy is also a good listen, especially if you are completely new to crypto. You can also check out Litepaper.com for some high quality beginner guides to the major projects and concepts in crypto.
Here is a video explaining blockchain/distributed ledger technology in-depth:
And finally, read the bitcoin white paper! It’s only 8 pages long. Even if you don’t understand it all (you probably won’t), it makes sense to try to grapple with the original source material that started this off.
Twitter is an incredible resource for learning about crypto. The speed and brevity of information dissemination on Twitter makes it perfect for the rapid pace of the crypto space. Furthermore, every relevant actor in crypto is active on Twitter. This includes teams, developers, founders, traders, investors, news outlets, exchanges and even regulators. There is no better way to get information quickly, concisely and directly from all these sources in one place than Twitter.
It also seems that the more people have realized this, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Crypto Twitter is filled with distilled high quality information from some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the space. It’s also full of memes, trolling, shitposting and straight junk. Separating the signal from the noise is never easy and it’s up to you to tell which is which!
Your Twitter timeline in $crypto is the equivalent of a Bloomberg Terminal in other areas of Finance.
Learn how to use it efficiently and effectively:
-> Follower count means nothing
-> Many charts mean nothing
-> Pay attention to those that have been here a while
— Luke Martin (@VentureCoinist) December 19, 2017
I will be linking to Twitter accounts throughout this post, and that is not a coincidence – crypto Twitter is the best all-around resource there is!
How to Learn About a Specific Project or Coin
Everyone knows about Bitcoin, Ethereum, and maybe Litecoin, Ripple or Monero. But what about all those others? There are over 1500 cryptoassets currently trading on the markets, and all those that are not Bitcoin are called “altcoins” (alternative coins).
Most of these are listed on CoinMarketCap, where you can click on any single one to be brought to a page with more information and relevant links. Scanning the website, social media, subreddit and/or BitcoinTalk announcement thread for a project is a quick way to get a sense of what it’s about. If you want to go deeper you can read the white paper, join their Telegram and/or Discord groups, or contact the team directly.
For example, if I go to CoinMarketCap and click on NEO, I get this page:
If you click the “Markets” tab, you can see all the exchanges a coin is trading on. CoinMarketCap is a great portal to learn more about any specific cryptocurrency. Another similar platform is Coin Checkup.
Security is extremely important! This is still a new space and there a lot of scams and hacks. Exchanges get hacked. Individual accounts get hacked. Funds are stolen *frequently* in crypto. If you want in on this you MUST take security seriously.
One of the most promising and appealing aspects of crypto is its decentralized peer-to-peer model – the lack of need for a trusted third party when making transactions. The flip side of this means there is a high level of personal responsibility involved.
The space is evolving quickly but in many ways is still the “wild west”. There are plenty of bandits out there looking to steal your money. With opportunity comes risk, and if you are really going to be your own bank, you’d better make sure it’s secure!
The good news is that if you follow some basic security procedures you can mitigate much of the risk. Check out the articles below for basic crypto security.
@RogueDarren has a good write up on security: Crypto Security for the Aspiring Trader or Investor
For a longer, more in-depth guide to security see this post: 4 ways to secure your bags: a notsofast security primer
A hardware wallet is a small physical device that stores cryptocurrency. The coins on it are accessed by plugging the device into your computer and entering a PIN. A hardware wallet is the safest way to store cryptocurrency, because it is impossible to access the funds on it without having the physical device itself in one’s possession. Storing cryptocurrency on an exchange or on a wallet on your computer or phone is by comparison much less secure. I have the Ledger Nano S hardware wallet and it works great.
Macro/Big Picture Resources
Naval Ravikant – How crypto and blockchain will change the world on a macro societal level in the long run
Chris Burniske – Long-term investing and valuation of cryptoassets; literally wrote the book on it
Ari Paul – Investor at BlockTower Capital and macro thinker
Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has put together a list of resources on this topic which you can find here. Be warned – there is a lot there!
Altcoin Investing Resources
Daniel Jeffries is a trader and investor who has written several excellent articles on altcoin trading and investing. Start with Mastering Shitcoins: The Poor Man’s Guide to Getting Rich and then move on this one
@needacoin is known for his prescient altcoin calls
Trading & Technical Analysis Resources
Technical analysis is used in trading to estimate future price movement, and involves different tools and methods which can be learned. There is some debate over the validity and utility of TA which we won’t get into here. All I’m doing is providing resources for learning, after which you can make up your own mind.
Babypips.com has a free course on the basics of trading and technical analysis. This will teach you how to read charts, recognize patterns, use indicators and more. This course is technically for Forex (global currency trading), but about 70% of it carries over to crypto and the rest you can just ignore.
Trader Alvin Lee has a monster blog post on this topic: An Essential Beginner’s Starter Kit for your Journey into the Cryptocurrency Jungle that is Bitcoin & Altcoin trading
@Carpenoctom is a good follow for TA. He also has a Youtube channel with informative instructional videos.
@Venturecoinist a former finance guy and solid all-rounder. TA/charts, ICOs, macro/big picture investment strategy.
@LedgerStatus another good follow for TA. He also hosts a great podcast which is linked below.
@AngeloBTC Probably the best trader you’ll ever have direct access to through the internet
An ICO (initial coin offering) or token sale is a crowdfunding event for a crypto or blockchain-based project. By participating in an ICO, individuals can fund a project directly in exchange for tokens that represent a stake in that project. That is speaking very generally as there can be a lot of variation here depending on the project structure. ICO investments can yield some of the highest returns in crypto: 2-5X is relatively common and 10, 50 or 100X is possible.
Ian Balina is probably the best known “ICO guy”. He started with some tens of thousands of dollars in his portfolio and is now worth several million. Balina has developed a large following, and you’ll need to separate out the marketing and personal branding from the quality information.
CoinBloq Youtube channel is a solid resource for ICO reviews, run by an English guy named Charles. He ranks six ICOs along three dimensions in each of his videos, which are released about once a week.
There are also websites like ICOdrops and ICObench that list and sometimes rank ICOs. If you do some digging you can also find Telegram and Discord groups focused on ICO research.
Personally my ICO strategy is to collect information from several different sources I judge as reliable, shortlist a number of ICOs, and then follow up with my own research. Based on this I will make a decision whether or not to invest.
If you are a citizen or resident of the US you are likely not allowed to participate in most ICOs and token sales. Be sure to understand the legalities in your country before making any investments.
If you’re like me and like consuming information in audio format, there are a number of crypto podcasts to learn from.
Ledger Cast – A great all-around podcast covering news, investing, trading and technical analysis. Hosted by @Ledgerstatus as mentioned above.
Coin Mastery – Regular podcasts/videos with updates on news, trading, TA and more. Great for macro/big picture perspective.
Crypto Street Podcast – Casual interviews with personalities in the crypto space, mostly from crypto Twitter.
Shitcoin Talk – The most informal of informal podcasts – literally a Google hangout with guys sitting around talking about shitcoins (altcoins). Many of the regulars are knowledgeable and there are some good calls.
Crypto Radio – Started by a couple whose other podcast Future Thinkers I am a fan of. The first episodes of Crypto Radio have covered basic information but I expect some quality content from these guys in the future.
Exchanges are where you can buy and sell cryptocurrency. You can see a list of all exchanges here.
The size, legitimacy and security of cryptocurrency exchanges varies greatly. Coinbase, for example, is a US company worth over $1 billion with well-known investors like Andreessen Horowitz. In terms of risk, using Coinbase is analogous to using something like Paypal or Venmo.
On the other end of the spectrum you have exchanges like Cryptopia or TradeSatoshi, which are smaller, lesser-known, and used mainly to trade low market cap coins. Speaking very generally, larger exchanges are more reputable and safer.
It is important to understand that this space is still relatively new and exchanges are far from perfect. They can be slow, experience downtime, have issues with deposits or withdrawals, and verification processes can take a long time. Exchanges can also be hacked! Again: you must prioritize security.
Below are some of the exchanges I’ve used and had no issues with. Some of these are referral links.
Cryptocurrency Exchanges with Fiat
These exchanges allow fiat deposits and withdrawals, and so can serve as an onramp or offramp for the crypto markets. You will likely need to get verified on these exchanges by providing some proof of identification and perhaps other documents, and this can take some time.
Coinbase – The first crypto “unicorn” and the most widely used exchange in the US. This is a great place to start if you’re based in the US and brand new to crypto, as their interface is user-friendly and crypto on Coinbase is insured.
Kraken – A popular exchange in Europe, although their trading interface is quite terrible. They have previously had issues with site speed although that seems to be fixed. Kraken can be useful for Canadians like me because it has CAD trading pairs.
Cryptocurrency Only Exchanges
These exchanges hold crypto only – no fiat. The verification process on these exchanges is generally less strict.
Binance – The best altcoin exchange. Binance has very good liquidity, an accessible trading interface, many coins, and some of the lowest trading fees around at 0.05% or lower.
Bittrex – Popular altcoin exchange with a very large number of cryptocurrencies available. Bittrex was the standard for altcoin trading until Binance came along.
Kucoin – A Korean exchange that has certain coins not available elsewhere – Dragonchain for example. Their trading interface is good.
HitBTC – Chinese exchange similar to the above in that they have certain coins not available elsewhere.
BitMex – Infamous exchange for bitcoin and altcoin margin trading. On Bitmex you can trade with up to 100X leverage, although I wouldn’t recommend it!
For a comprehensive guide to cryptocurrency taxes (US), see this guide and check out the Koinly cryptocurrency tax calculator
A quick final note on how I’m thinking about all this
This is a brand new game that no one has quite figured out how to play yet. It is evolving very quickly and there is already far too much breadth and depth for any one person to be an expert in all aspects of crypto. There is a spectrum along which more and less legitimate opinions and perspectives exist, but the truth is that no one really knows what is going to happen.
Doubtless there is opportunity to make money here and, if you play it right, large amounts. Crypto returns are often measured in double or triple-digit percentage gains or just straight multiples, which compared to any other asset class is pretty outrageous.
In my *opinion* the 2017 bitcoin rise was just the beginning, and we will see something on the level of the dot com bubble in the next few years. If that is true, then opportunities like this do not come around often – maybe once every 10-15 years. It is certainly a mistake to go into this without doing proper research and lose your money, but I believe it is potentially a worse mistake to sit on the sidelines and let it pass you by. Of course this is total speculation and I could be wrong.
Valuations of cryptoassets are still highly speculative, and coins with terrible underlying fundamentals can increase in price 1000% or more over a few weeks or even days. Again I want to emphasize this is very much the wild west. You can make money very fast and get burned even faster. By conventional standards, putting your money in crypto is very risky. At the same time, the more I learn about this space, the less risky it seems to me personally. Make of that what you will.
In a broader sense I think this is the beginning of software/tech “eating” the financial sector, as it has done for the music industry, publishing, journalism and others. So far the banks are doing a better job of keeping up (or holding on, depending how you look at it) but this is just the start. I think it is in many ways analogous to the early days of the internet – people thought this thing would probably be big, they just weren’t exactly sure how.
In short it is an incredible opportunity to be part of this wave, on an individual and societal level. If you have the time I’d recommend studying, learning, and doing your best to take full advantage. I hope these resources can start you off in the right direction. Good luck!