What does the dawning of the age of the internet in the late 1990s have to do with cryptocurrencies? Ask Ryan Jacob, chief investment officer of the Jacob Internet Fund whose five-star Morningstar-rated fund got its start in 1999 and survived the collapse the following year of the dot-com bubble.
“You have a new technology that people are still trying to grasp and don’t fully comprehend,” Jacob, also chairman of Jacob Funds, tells in an interview. Still, there remains a big then-versus-now difference between the two.
“Cryptocurrency is really not driving the stock market today. The internet was driving the stock market in the late 1990s. We may get to that point, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
Jacob, whose funds look for companies with innovative technology and wide investment moats, says his approach to the crypto space features the same balance as its outlook on Chinese internet stocks in the early 2000s, seen as risky at the time. “We know we want the exposure, but we also want to be extra careful in terms of how much risk we introduce in the portfolios,” he said.
One play he likes is Voyager Digital a top holding in both the Internet Fund and Jacob Discovery Fund It is a small Canadian cryptocurrency broker with robust technology and an impressive management team. Its co-founder and chief executive, Steve Ehrlich, is a former E-Trade executive, while fellow co-founder Oscar Salazar was the founding architect and chief technology officer of ride-hailing technology group Uber Up over 2,000% in 2021, Voyager shares have gained 382% so far this year.
Another holding in those Jacob funds is Silvergate Capital a specialty bank focused on the digital-currency business.
It is a “traditional bank that decided that the crypto market needed an exchange network that can handle a 24/7 asset,” said Jacob. The bank is known for its Silvergate Exchange Network, an instant settlement network. As the existing financial system has been slow on this front, it leaves smaller, more nimble players more able to cater to what is needed right now. Shares are up 68% this year so far, after a 367% gain in 2020.
Cryptos are a “dangerous playground to be playing in for sure … but it’s also an area where there are exciting companies that will benefit greatly from this and should be around for a long time or eventually acquired,” said Jacob.
Stocks are lower after Monday’s tech-driven tech selloff and investors brace for earnings deluge this week. Stocks in Tokyo tumbled 2% amid rising COVID-19 cases. Elsewhere, bitcoin continues to drift south, but dogecoin is rising on “Doge Day” — a loosely organized effort to push to $1 the cryptocurrency that started as a joke.
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