At a time when 90 percent of Americans have never owned bitcoin and nearly 70 percent say they have no plans to do so in the future, the thought of widespread adoption and usage of cryptocurrency seems to be a distant prospect for most people. Ternio CEO Daniel Gouldman, however, is not one of them.
“I would not be surprised if in five years, most money as we know it is basically cryptocurrency,” Gouldman said in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
He said if you took a cryptocurrency adoption graph and overlaid it with a chart of internet adoption in the mid-1990s, “it’s the same path. It’s an incredibly explosive adoption rate.”
While bitcoin might be the best-known and most widely held and traded cryptocurrency, Gouldman said it’s not going to be “the big transformational thing” that takes crypto to the mainstream and makes it easily spendable. Instead, he expects central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) — government-issued digital versions of traditional dollars, yuan, etc. — to take center stage.
“In my mind, most money [in the near future] will basically be cryptocurrency, because you’ve got these CBDCs — the central bank digital currencies,” he said. “Bitcoin is awesome. Everyone should have it. I love it. But it’s not a transformational thing that’s going to affect everyone’s lives on a day-to-day basis.”
What is going to be a game-changer — or life-changer, as the case may be — is when “money as software” allows people to store and control their own cash and not have to pay any fees to banks.
Gouldman said the timeframe for when that happens “is probably going to be when the Federal Reserve says, ‘okay,’” adding that he’s very bullish and confident that this is the future timeline.
The Fed Factor
Because the Fed will play such a pivotal role in leading the advance and maturation of cryptocurrency, Gouldman thinks the return of former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as incoming U.S. Treasury secretary will further catalyze the evolution and spendability of digital currency.
“Janet Yellen supports blockchain as a technology. She’s very knowledgeable about it,” Gouldman said, noting that she’s also an economist from the Keynesian school of thinking who will aggressively support anti-deflationary measures for post-pandemic recovery.
“So it’s a two-fer,” Gouldman said – because bitcoin is a real asset that will serve as a hedge against inflation, but will also benefit from an improving economy.
“Yellen is going to be very, very good for the economy, and she’s going to be very, very good for anyone who owns bitcoin,” he predicted.
In the meantime, Gouldman is focusing on a string of near-term deals and innovations within the crypto space that he said mark its continued progress and journey toward mass spendability.
“Kudos to Visa for being a very proactive organization,” he said, citing the giant payment and credit card processor’s forward thinking and preparation on crypto.
He’s also encouraged by Ternio’s recent inclusion in Visa’s Fast Track program as an “enablement partner.” That makes the firm unique as a cryptocurrency-focused company that can help other FinTechs launch their own Visa products to bring new crypto-friendly services to market.
“We’re pumped up about both of those things,” Gouldman said. “We feel like that demonstrates our level of seriousness in terms of what we do in our space. It’s our specialty.”
Other recent, notable events and companies on his radar include PayPal’s recent embrace and entry into the crypto world for its massive user base, as well as BlockFi’s new crypto-linked Visa card that offers 1.5 percent cash-back rewards.
At the same time, on the innovation front, Gouldman is encouraged by Ethereum, which trails only bitcoin as the world’s largest blockchain. He said Ethereum just transitioned from a “proof-of-work” blockchain to the much faster “‘proof-of-stake” blockchain.
And then there’s Paxful, which allows some five million users to trade cryptocurrencies in a peer-to-peer marketplace rather than using an exchange, with the help of Ternio technology.
“We think Paxful is a great demonstration of the kind of serious breadth and reach we have within the general populace,” Gouldman said.
The March Toward Mainstream
While P2P payment apps such as Venmo are wildly popular, Gouldman feels the speed and simplicity of crypto is superior.
“Why would I go through the song and dance [of P2P money transfer] when I can just literally send you the funds directly and not have to worry about ACH’ing it later?” he asked.
He said that although widely used and easily spendable crypto is still a ways off, banks and consumers will only get more accustomed to digital currency over time, especially once they’ve tried it.
“I suspect by the time banks get comfortable with cryptocurrencies — which will take some time — it will have become much, much more mainstream,” he said. “And that’s when the peer-to-peer apps will have something to worry about.”
But Gouldman added that by then, the P2P apps will probably have prepared their own transition and pivot to crypto.
In the meantime, he continues to mark off milestones, like a recent Ternio survey that showed 70 percent of 35,000 blockchain investors already spent some of their crypto holdings last year, establishing a trend of crypto holders actively embracing the utility of cryptocurrency.
As Gouldman predicted: “I think at some point, cryptocurrency will just be the way, and you won’t even need an app [to use it].”