The MapleMoney Show » How to Invest Your Money » Investing

Bitcoin Investing Made Easy, with Mitchell Demeter

Presented by Wealthsimple

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

Today on the MapleMoney Show, we’re stepping into the wild world of bitcoin. If the whole subject of cryptocurrency seems confusing or downright scary, you’re not alone. Thankfully, my guest this week is here to dispel some bitcoin myths and help you feel more comfortable about buying and selling digital currencies.

Mitchell Demeter Is the President of Netcoins, a cryptocurrency trading platform. His vision is to make it easy and accessible for anyone to buy, sell, and understand cryptocurrency. Mitchell’s core belief is that sound money is ultimately more beneficial for society; he is deeply passionate about the crypto industry and considers its limitless possibilities.

Like many investors, I’ve had my doubts about cryptocurrency as an investment. I have never thought of it as more than a purely speculative venture, no matter how much it’s risen in value over the years. When I shared this sentiment with Mitchell during the interview, he seemed to understand where I was coming from.

According to Mitchell, Bitcoin should be viewed in the same light as gold or any standard currency. He explains how it shares many of these other assets’ same properties while acknowledging that cryptocurrencies are wildly volatile. Mitchell says that the safest way to own Bitcoin is by adopting a long-term mindset, the same way you would with any other market investment.

You can do this through dollar-cost averaging or buying units in smaller amounts over regular intervals. In fact, through Mitchell’s company NetCoins, you can open an account and purchase Bitcoin for as little as $50 within minutes.

Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to Wealthsimple today!

Episode Summary

  • How Mitchell got involved in the Bitcoin industry
  • The argument for Bitcoin as an investment
  • The similarities between Bitcoin and gold
  • How easy is it to buy and sell Bitcoin?
  • Understanding Bitcoin security
  • How does the introduction of new coins impact the crypto market?
  • Mitchell shares his personal views on the future of bitcoin.
  • Did you know? You can buy Bitcoin with as little as $50
Read transcript

Today on the Maple Money Show, we’re stepping into the wild world of Bitcoin. If the whole subject of cryptocurrency seems confusing or downright scary, you’re not alone. Thankfully, my guest this week is here to dispel some Bitcoin myths and help you feel more comfortable about buying and selling digital currencies. Mitchell Demeter is the president of Net Coins, a cryptocurrency trading platform. His vision is to make it easy and accessible for anyone to buy, sell and understand cryptocurrency. Mitchell’s core belief is that sound money is ultimately more beneficial for society. He is deeply passionate about the crypto industry and what he considers its limitless possibilities.

Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor, Wealthsimple, will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, clean tech, human rights and the environment. To get socially responsible investing, head over to maplemoney.com/wealthsimple today. Now, let’s chat with Mitchell….

Tom: Hi, Mitchell. Welcome to the Maple Money Show.

Mitchell: Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me on.

Tom: Well, thanks for being on. I’ve watched Bitcoin and all these other cryptocurrencies from the outside. I’ve never put any money in, never bought any. But, to go way back, I do remember going into computer shops where they were building these huge, powerful computers and talking about Bitcoin mining and I was interested in the pricing of it. Back then, I’m pretty sure it was about $200. Roughly, what is the price of a Bitcoin right now?

Mitchell: So right now, Bitcoin is trading in around $37,000 US per coin.

Tom: Yeah. So that would have been a decent amount of money in my pocket back then. But honestly, even if I had it, I probably would have sold when it was around $2,000. I would have just 10X’d my money and would have been happy at that.

Mitchell: Absolutely. That’s a pretty common outcome. It happens even today. People get in, make a bit of money and get out. There are a few people that have actually bought in really early and held on to it. A lot of people that were buying back in 2013, 2014 made a few times on their money. Maybe 20, 30 percent. It was all still so new in the early days that people didn’t really know if there was going to be longevity.

Tom: Now, despite a little bit of remorse that I didn’t get into this, whenever someone asked me for my opinion on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, I tell them I have no experience with it at all. But I don’t really view it as an investment in that I can’t see how it’s tied to anything. Obviously, a stock is tied to a business. Even regular currency, you could say, is tied to the economy of that country. I can’t quite see what crypto is tied to. But I do see you can still make money on it. So maybe it’s just about definition. Where do you line up on this investment terminology with Bitcoin?

Mitchell: It’s definitely been used as a speculative investment over the last decade since its inception, really. People have had a hard time figuring out what its value should be or if there is any future in it. That’s partially why we’ve got such volatility in the market. One of the ways I like to kind of explain it is each country has its currency. This is kind of the currency of the Internet. When you start to break down what a currency should be (or what money should be), Bitcoin has a lot of those properties. I first got turned on to Bitcoin because I was really excited about gold and silver and “sound” money. I was interested in those things because I noticed the things that were wrong with traditional government issued money. The same principles that get people excited about gold actually apply to Bitcoin. There’s only $21 million that will ever be in existence so there’s a finite amount. And there are a few things about Bitcoin that make it better than gold. It’s easier to store. It’s easier to secure, and it’s easier to transfer around the world instantly. Whereas with gold, you can spend a ton of money and time trying to secure it or transport it. Going back to just the overall value, if you’ve got something that can hold value over time and be transported around the world instantly, then it can be used as a fairly stable money. Figuring out what that’s worth is kind of what the market’s doing right now and has been doing for the last 10 years.

Tom: I like the comparison to gold because I’ve had the same issues. But I’ve also had the same confusion too as to why is gold worth what it’s worth. Should I really have a gold bar sitting in my safe? What’s the benefit of that? I guess what you’re saying there is that it may not be tied to anything but you’re also not tied to anything with it. It’s money I believe you can get out relatively easy.

Mitchell: Absolutely. When you start to think about gold and why it has value, basically, people agree that it has value. It’s one of the key properties of good money is finite amount. And basically, no one party has the ability to increase supply. If we were to use seashells as money, it could be a good currency for a little bit of time. But then as technology advances and people create boats that can go dredge the ocean and they can blow up a ton more seashells, then it’s no longer useful as money. The reason that gold has worked so well as money for the last 3,000 years is that there’s a finite amount on the earth. And the “new” gold coming into circulation is very predictable. There’s about two percent of the supply released into circulation each year. As the price goes up, that incentivizes more people to go and apply more resources and try to bring more gold up into circulation. But it remains fairly constant. And on the other side of the spectrum, we’ve actually broke free of the gold standard where we go to these government issued currencies and basically have the ability to create trillions of dollars out of thin air. If you’re holding $100 and they create 20 percent more of those dollars, putting that many more dollars in circulation, essentially, each of those dollars is worth less. That’s one of the problems with Fiat currency right now. Our governments are printing money at rapid rates and essentially devaluing the existing dollars. What a lot of big institutional investors, hedge fund managers and public companies around the world are starting to recognize is that there isn’t really any value in US dollars or government issued currencies. The reason for that is that they can print more at a whim, at the stroke of a pen or a stroke of a keyboard. When you think about that, you start to think about where you can actually put your money where its going to basically hold its value. Gold has done that for a long time. And like I said, this is kind of a digital gold with some improvements. People are recognizing that and starting to use it as a hedge against inflation.

Tom: If someone wants to get involved in this, how do they go about this? How do they buy into a cryptocurrency? And then on the other side of that, how do they sell? Is this all relatively simple? I know it wasn’t years ago so has this improved?

Mitchell: Yeah, absolutely. A few years ago it was really difficult but every day gets easier and easier. Basically, what I’ve done for the last eight years is try and make the experience as easy as possible. It’s very similar to working with an online broker. The same way you would buy stocks. It’s very similar to online banking. We run a platform called, Netcoins. Basically, you can go to netcoins.ca, sign up for an account, fund your account with an email transfer (which usually hits the account within a few minutes). From there you’ll see your Canadian dollar balance and then you can buy and sell. The other way our platform works is if you’ve got one of these assets, you can create an account, add the asset and then sell it. The market is extremely liquid. There’s a ton of volume going through them every single day. You can buy as little as $50 or buy and sell a couple of million dollars. They’re really liquid. There are a lot of different ways—a lot of different platforms like this now. There’s also Bitcoin ATMs, Bitcoin funds and also publicly traded companies where you can get direct Bitcoin exposure to. The market is evolving really quickly. It’s easier than it’s ever been and I expect it will continue to improve.

Tom: One of the things I found kind of scary with this idea is you hear these stories about people getting locked out of their Bitcoin wallets. There was one not too long ago where it was millions of dollars or more. Is Netcoin similar to that? Do you have any way to recover that? What’s the level of security?

Mitchell: So there’s two things there. With Bitcoin, you do have the ability to take physical possession. When you take physical possession, it’s the same as if you go to the bank and withdraw cash. You’re in possession of that. You basically take that cash, put it in your wallet and if you lose your wallet or forget where it is, then that cash is gone. But if you leave your cash inside the bank, it’s similar to leaving it on a platform like Netcoins. With Netcoins, your identification is going to be connected to that and we’re going to know exactly who you are. We’ve got a few different security measures to make sure you’re the only one that can get into that account. But if you lose your password or two-factor authentication key, we’ve got procedures in place that allow you to come to us, prove that you are who you say you are—you are the one that owns and created the account, then we can restore your password so you get your access back. Once you take that cash out or take it into your own possession, obviously, there’s some benefits to it because then you truly own it. There are some other platforms that basically just allow you to buy and sell. You can’t deposit coins in and you can’t withdraw the coins. That’s where there’s questions of whether or not you actually own it. I think it is important for people to play around with it and get comfortable taking physical possession of their assets as kind of just a movement towards financial sovereignty, eliminating the middleman and that counterparty risk that comes with dealing with third parties. But overall, we’re working with the regulators to ensure that our standards and our insurance procedures and everything are up to standards to ensure funds that are left with us are safe.

Tom: The other concern I have is, since it’s tough to value, how does someone know if now is the right time to start in Bitcoin? Whenever people come to me, I tell them that by the time a regular Canadian comes to me to ask that question, it might already be too late. Sometimes if it’s a stock that’s in the news a lot or Bitcoin hitting some new high, a lot of times if feels like the wrong time to invest. It doesn’t mean it can’t go higher. It’s just by the time it’s kind of public like that, it seems like you kind of maybe missed out on the current upswing.

Mitchell: I agree with that sentiment. There’s a few things that are key indicators. When everybody’s talking about it and it’s on mainstream news—when you go to get groceries and the guy behind you is asking if you own Bitcoin, then there’s definitely a lot of buzz in the air, it can indicate that the market might be a little bit overheated. What I always recommend is that people “dollar cost” average it. Basically, if you see the value in the protocol over the next 10, 20 years, then these fluctuations in the short-term volatility don’t really matter. Bitcoin has averaged about a 200 percent increase year over year for the last 10 years. It seems volatile, and it is. But if you start to zoom out one, two or three years, that volatility really quiets down and you start to see the trend is just a continual increase as that adoption curve continues. If you look at the alternative to holding Canadian dollars or holding US dollars—or any Fiat currency for that matter, the trend in purchasing power is actually going quickly in the opposite direction. I think overall timing the market is really difficult. I don’t recommend anybody tries that. I don’t recommend people trade. Even the most seasoned traders lose money. I recommend “time in” the market over “timing” the market. If you just kind of put away whatever amount you’re comfortable with on regular intervals… You don’t even really need to look at the price because if you’ve got faith in the long-term future of the product and you know the other side of that is that your dollars are losing purchasing power while Bitcoin has been gaining purchasing power, that kind of makes it more of a long-term, stable bet.

Tom: And that’s just great investing advice for anything. I’m glad you brought it up. The idea that you can “dollar cost” average and it’s not going to take your entire life savings to put in on just one day. Yeah, I’m very glad you brought that up because it seems whenever someone talks to me, they have a bit more of an “all-in” kind of philosophy. Maybe it’s not 100 percent truly that way but a lot of people just see so much press around this and such big growth, it sounds like they really want to strike it rich, quickly. And that’s the kind of person I’m a little bit concerned about getting into this.

Mitchell: Yeah, absolutely. We call that FOMO, the fear of missing out. You see it a lot. And you see it in cycles. The Bitcoin price is very cyclical and it’s directly correlated to the new coins being released into circulation. It’s cut in half every four years. As the new supply being released (and constricts every four years on that schedule), it tends to create a bit of a liquidity squeeze and the price goes up. In those rallies you run into those mania phases. That’s where you get the FOMO and people get emotional. They end up hammering their life savings in or taking out big loans. Then maybe the market corrects or they try to time it. That’s where people start to get emotional. Emotion and investing never really work out that well. They’re not a very good combination. I always recommend people just take it slow, learn about the technology, learn about what’s happening in the monetary system. Learn about what this protocol—what this movement is all really about. It’s really about financial sovereignty, individual freedom, and decentralization. When you start to think about it that way and slowly enter the space and really understand it (rather than just coming in and trying to strike it rich and run back into Canadian or US dollars), that really changes the perception and it takes the emotion out of it.

Tom: You had mentioned earlier that Bitcoin has a set amount. But it seems like there’s another version of cryptocurrency coming out every day or week. Does that water things down? It might not be within Bitcoin and Bitcoin’s pricing, but I assume there’s people leaving Bitcoin then to go to something else. How does this look from that wider-view of all cryptocurrency?

Mitchell: There are a few thousand cryptocurrencies in existence. It’s not surprising and I don’t think it waters down Bitcoin overall. Basically, what we’ve got with Bitcoin is the ability to create digital assets, our digital assets—unique digital assets. We’ve got this infrastructure, the block chain, that can be used for several different applications. There are a ton of different things being built and there are essentially companies being created with tokens… A lot of it just kind of comes and goes. I think it’s probably comparable to junior company investing. But, at the same time, there’s really some interesting stuff being built. There are a lot of people that understand the ethos of Bitcoin and the need for decentralization and to take the power back and put it to the people rather than having four or five people in the world control monetary policy, including the issuance where they’re basically deciding what you can buy and sell like we saw with Robin Hood last week. There are some interesting applications where you can use the block chain to build decentralized platforms that can do a lot of different things. While I think it can be a bit overwhelming for people, when you see 2,000 or 3,000 different assets, I usually advise people not to invest in those. I think there’s a lot of shiny objects that can be distracting. People usually end up losing money on those things more often than not. I tend to think Bitcoin is the primary coin people should be buying. But, yeah, there is a whole world where you can go down the rabbit hole and learn about decentralized finances being created to solve and address a ton of problems in the legacy system.

Tom: I’m glad you brought up Robin Hood. It answered one of my concerns about Bitcoin… Well maybe not Bitcoin so much but some of these random cryptocurrencies. They could come out, people could talk about them, drive the price up (based on nothing) and maybe that thing doesn’t really exist a few months later. But seeing it with GameStop, it’s a stock, a legit investment by my definition but you can see that even the stock of a company can have its price played with, and people can get in at the wrong time as the press grows around it. It kind of shows in cryptocurrency’s favor that it’s no different—these things can go up for no reason at all. And they can come crashing back down too even if you’re a real company with a stock in the stock market.

Mitchell: Absolutely. Yeah. Markets in general are wild, irrational things. And basically, as soon as you get humans involved where you have human nature and emotion, there’s really no difference whether you’re trading baseball cards, trading stocks or trading cryptocurrency.

Tom: With something like stocks, I would often recommend that people be fully diversified with things like ETFs to get exposure so they don’t get hurt by that one stock. With cryptocurrency, is Bitcoin just such a large portion of the options where maybe that’s all you need? Or would it help to dabble in a few more just for some sort of diversification, even within this cryptocurrency section?

Mitchell: I think it would definitely come down to personal preference. But Bitcoin has proven itself. And Bitcoin is the one these institutions are buying. Bitcoin is basically kind of the de facto. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot more risk in a lot of these alternative currencies, which we call “alt coins” essentially. I think the potential upside is still absolutely enormous with Bitcoin. I think that it’s ultimately the future. People are free to go and try and find the next one or try and find these different protocols and play around. But I think that overall, the safest, most sure thing, in my opinion. Obviously, it’s not a sure thing. Nothing in investing ever is a sure thing. But to me, Bitcoin is kind of just the main coin that I see a sure future in.

Tom: I get this is not a sure thing but I’m going to ask you to pull out your crystal ball anyways. What do you see coming up in the next year or further out? Just where do you see the future of cryptocurrency?

Mitchell: Like you said, nobody’s got a crystal ball but I’ve seen these cycles a few times now. The first major cycle I saw was back in 2013. Bitcoin ran from about $12 up to about $120, came back and consolidated over the summer and then ran up in the fall of 2013 to $1,200. Then we came back down to about $90 or so. It tracked sideways for a bit and then ran up again. So, short-term, I kind of anticipate a similar cycle. There is some action leading up to the end of the year. The price has been trending up. We’ve got a ton of institutional interest. Companies like MicroStrategy are adding huge portions of their corporate balance sheet into Bitcoin. I could see a run up in the next couple of weeks, next couple of months. It could go up hard and fast. It could potentially go up to $100,000 US. I would anticipate some consolidation and sideways action over the summer and then another full on, bull run and real “mania” phase into the fall. After that I would probably anticipate some consolidation and sideways action which could last another couple of years. Then the cycle will likely repeat itself. With all these waves, we see a full, new wave of innovation, a full, new wave of companies enter the space. There’s more infrastructure being built each round. The industry and the ecosystem just evolves in ways we couldn’t have even imagined years ago. That’s kind of what I see happening short-term, followed by another bear market, which is when most of the building and innovation happens in projects that were financed during the bull runs. I think five, 10 years down the road, we could see Bitcoin at $1 million a coin and basically the foundation of a variety of different financial products.

Tom: It’s certainly all very interesting. I am warming up to it. I haven’t figured out if it’s for me or not. I get the idea people can make money from this just like any regular investment in that there’s still the same precautions that we discussed here. Can you let people know about Netcoins, what you do and how people can find out more about this?

Mitchell: Yes, absolutely. Another plus side to Netcoins is we’re actually owned by a publicly traded company that’s traded on the CSC. The name of that company is Big Digital Assets. One of the benefits of being public is that all of our financials are audited and there’s a higher level of transparency into our company. The public and basically go online, look at our balance sheets and even pick up a piece of the company if they’re interested. There’s more transparency into our operating business than there would be in a private company which gives a lot of our clients a lot more comfort. We’re also working with the BC Securities Commission and the regulators across the country to help and establish the framework for companies like ours moving forward to make sure that it’s safe for consumers. And for people like yourself that want to get involved, a common misconception is that you need to buy one full Bitcoin. You don’t need to. You can come on to the site and buy as little as $50. And like I said earlier, it’s really easy. We spend a ton of time making sure that it’s a nice, smooth, easy experience. You can log on to the site, create an account, email transfer money in which hits the account within a few minutes, and then you can buy and sell. Cashing out is the same process. Anything under $10,000 we send you an email transfer when you when you want to cash out. Anything over and we’ll send you a wire transfer which usually arrives the next day. It’s nice and user friendly.

Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.

Mitchell: Thanks for having me, Tom. Appreciate it.

Thank you, Mitchell, for helping me and others understand a bit more about Bitcoin. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/137. Are you a member the Maple Money Show Facebook community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share a recent money win to encourage others. To join, head over to maplemoney.com/community to share with the group. Thanks, as always, for listening. I’m working on some great episodes. And of course, I’ll see you back here next week.

Each country has its currency and (Bitcoin) is kind of the currency of the internet. And when you start to break down what a currency should be, or what money should be, Bitcoin has a lot of those properties. Click to Tweet

Resources