Mike Novogratz knows a thing or two about numbers. The former Goldman Sachs partner turned billionaire Bitcoin (BTC) bull has spent most of his career working in finance, so when he publicly makes a claim that involves numbers, people sit up and listen.
Speaking on his Twitter account recently, Novogratz claimed that Bitcoin is now the most widely owned financial asset in the world, more so than even Apple and Alphabet stocks.
If true, this would be quite the groundbreaking revelation because not only would that make Bitcoin the most in-demand asset on earth, but it would also mean that whether anyone noticed it or not, crypto has already crossed the rubicon of adoption.
While crypto adoption is generally measured against the continued prevalence of fiat currency, this incredible statistic would mean that everyone has possibly been measuring the wrong thing.
So, is it true?
To find our way to the answer, the first thing to do is to establish how many people actually own Bitcoin, and that is where things become a bit tricky.
The thing is — despite the existence of an open blockchain that anyone can scan through with a block explorer — the most information that one can get out of it is what address sends how much to what address and how much is where. It is impossible to extrapolate such data into high quality information about how many Bitcoin owners exist in the world.
Still, it represents a useful start on the journey there, so we could start by looking at this chart showing how many blockchain wallets — including Bitcoin and every other cryptocurrency — currently exist.
While this does not tell us very much about Bitcoin specifically, it sets the tone for the next bit of visual data, this time from BitInfoCharts showing the total number of Bitcoin wallets in existence containing a BTC value over $1.
According to the measure of (BTC value = >$1) which is generally used to differentiate between active users/holders and dormant wallets, a total of 36,107,965 Bitcoin wallets currently exists. This unfortunately is as far as the data can dig into.
It is impossible to ascertain how many of these wallets belong to unique individuals, so one can not use that figure as the total number of Bitcoin users in the world. One can however extrapolate from this figure that millions — if not tens of millions —of people around the world currently use or hold Bitcoin.
What about Google and Apple stock?
The quest to find out how many shareholders these two mega corporations have included everything from Alphabet’s NASDAQ page to Apple’s SEC filing records. After several days poring through their books to get an idea of where to get this information, it slowly became clear that only institutional investment information is readily available on American public filing information.
Some supplementary digging brought up independent options trader and economist Thomas Miller, who finally gave a simple and definite answer to this particular question:
“You cannot find this number anywhere and it would be impossible to estimate.”
Simply put, under American law, individual shareholdings and non-institutional stock portfolios are classed as privileged information which cannot be found in the public domain. In fact, putting them into the public domain could possibly even be illegal.
Of course, as a former Goldman Sachs partner, Novogratz possibly has personal knowledge and access that could enable him to make this call. But in the absence of that, one has to assume that it is impossible both to figure out the number of Bitcoin users and the number of stockholders in a publicly listed American company.
As with Bitcoin, the only available workaround is broad and non-specific, but nevertheless offers something of an insight that would otherwise not be available. The chart below is from a U.S. household Gallup poll conducted in June 2020.
According to the data, 55% of U.S. households hold some sort of stock or investment, typically in the form of a 401(k). Data from Statista puts the total number of households in the U.S. at 128.58 million, which means that over 70 million U.S. households in fact hold some sort of financial asset, significantly exceeding the 36 million Bitcoin wallets in existence.
It would therefore seem as though Novogratz may have overstated the reality of Bitcoin’s popularity by some distance, but again it is very difficult to tell.
In March, Mexico recorded $4 billion worth of remittances from the U.S. in a single month —remittances which are increasingly being paid in Bitcoin. A scenario exists where a single Bitcoin wallet may be used by multiple recipients such as in a remittance delivery service that receives crypto from the sender and remits its fiat equivalent to the recipient.
In other words, the number of people who actually own or use Bitcoin may be significantly higher or lower than the number of Bitcoin wallets in existence. The real takeaway, however, is that Bitcoin is even being mentioned at all in the same breath as the second and fourth ranked stocks on the NASDAQ. Not quite a decade ago, Bitcoin was still on the far fringes of financial consciousness, taken seriously by only a handful of cypherpunk ecosystem insiders and early adopters.
Now in 2020, Novogratz may or may not have overstated his numbers, but that is no longer the story. Bitcoin is now very much one of the big boys, not just in the world of speculative finance, but also across a new range of real-world applications in the developing world.
That is the real story.
The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of BeInCrypto.