Is the US Losing Its Crypto Startup Attraction due to Tightening Regulations?
Home to the world’s largest economy, Silicon Valley, and abundant talent and investment opportunities, the United States has long been an appealing destination for budding crypto startups. However, the country’s stalling adoption, uncertain regulatory climate, and strict tax regime are threatening to dampen its appeal.
Recently, leaders in the crypto industry have voiced their concerns, cautioning that the US risks falling behind other nations and urging founders to consider alternative destinations seriously.
Strengths of the US Crypto Sector
The US has been dominating global markets for over a hundred years, with high-tech innovation at the center of its economic growth, particularly in Silicon Valley and other tech business hubs. It’s no wonder that many founders have flocked to the US in search of talent and venture capital investment in the blockchain era.
The US crypto space has witnessed explosive growth since its inception. For instance, Coinbase, the largest American crypto firm, currently boasts a market capitalization of over $9 billion and reported revenues of $708 million in the second quarter of 2023.
However, despite the sector’s impressive growth over the past decade, some members of the business community have identified rising challenges for crypto startups in the US.
US Crypto Adoption Trails Behind Other Countries
In many ways, the United States was a pioneer in the use of cryptocurrencies among businesses and consumers alike.
However, the rate of adoption has stagnated in recent years. Renowned analytics firm Chainalysis ranked the US fifth in global crypto adoption in 2022, trailing behind Vietnam, the Philippines, Ukraine, and India. Furthermore, the majority of US residents still do not own any cryptocurrency.
Determining the exact percentage of Americans who own crypto is challenging as survey results vary considerably. However, these surveys consistently show ownership rates of no more than a quarter of the population. For example, Morning Consult’s monthly surveys, which capture the opinions of 4,400 people in the US, have never reported crypto ownership rates above 16%.
A recent survey conducted by HedgewithCrypto also concurred, reporting a 16% crypto ownership rate in the US, with Australia surpassing it by reaching 18% ownership.
The sluggish growth in adoption rates suggests that many Americans remain skeptical of crypto investments and the technology’s potential for payments. In fact, Morning Consult’s surveys have revealed that more people in the US believe cryptocurrencies are harmful to society rather than beneficial.
Regulatory Challenges Prompt Exodus of US Crypto Startups
In addition to the slow adoption, the challenging regulatory climate poses a significant threat to the US crypto sector. Several major crypto exchanges have already pulled out of the US market due to regulatory uncertainties.
Bittrex, facing a court battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), ceased its US operations in April. Similarly, FinTech startup Revolut withdrew its US crypto trading service, citing an “evolving regulatory environment.”
Furthermore, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has proposed new crypto regulations aimed at reducing tax evasion. While these proposals intend to simplify income reporting for taxpayers, they would increase the compliance burden for many businesses.
Business Leaders Question the Future of the American Crypto Sector
Amidst the SEC crackdown and slowing growth in the space, business leaders are advising startups to look elsewhere. Antonio Juliano, the founder of dYdX exchange, suggested that crypto builders should “give up serving US customers” and consider re-entering the US market in 5-10 years.
Juliano believes that the challenges of operating in the US currently outweigh the rewards, especially considering the growing appetite for crypto services in other regions. Interestingly, dYdX is based in San Francisco but cannot legally offer its services in the US.
However, Juliano expresses optimism about the future of the US crypto market, stating that decentralized finance (DeFi) is aligned with American values. According to him, “America will realize that eventually.”
Others, such as Messari CEO Ryan Selkis, have voiced less certainty about the future. Selkis bluntly commented, “There’s no future for crypto in the US if Biden is reelected.”
It’s important to note that few CEOs are as openly partisan or outspoken as Selkis. Industry leaders like Brian Armstrong of Coinbase have engaged with politicians to discuss crypto policies, and industry groups like the Blockchain Association have actively lobbied politicians from across the political spectrum for regulatory clarity and crypto-friendly policies.
Despite these efforts, the fear of the US losing its competitive edge remains high, especially in a field where it has all the necessary ingredients for success. Crypto entrepreneurs face an uncertain future if they opt to establish their businesses in the US.
The United States, known for its thriving tech industry and entrepreneurial spirit, has traditionally been an attractive destination for crypto startups. However, as discussed in this article, increasing regulatory challenges and a sluggish adoption rate have raised concerns among business leaders in the crypto industry.
While the US crypto sector still possesses significant strengths, such as access to talent and venture capital, founders and entrepreneurs are beginning to explore alternative destinations that offer more favorable regulatory environments. It is crucial for the US to address these challenges promptly to retain its competitiveness and remain a leading player in the global crypto market.
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