‘Bitcoin Is Not the Biggest Energy Guzzler,’ Says BitMEX CEO

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In Brief
  • BeinCrypto spoke to Alexander Höptner, CEO of BitMex.

  • “I firmly believe in bitcoin and the blockchain," he says.

  • The exchange is focusing on development and education going forward.

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BeinCrypto spoke to Alexander Höptner, CEO of BitMex, about the movement to mass bitcoin adoption and where BitMEX is headed next.

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Höptner took on the position of CEO at the end of 2020. With a background as CEO of other companies, including Euwax AG and 1st Order, his experience made him a great choice for the exchange, which has been making headlines, both good and bad.

He first entered the crypto space in 2013/2014. Starting with an interest in tokenization, he was led further down the rabbit hole and is now an avid hodler who doesn’t mind buying the dip.

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However, this doesn’t mean he isn’t for bitcoin as a viable currency.

“At the moment there are simply too few options for paying. This is particularly difficult in Germany. It looks different in Switzerland and Asia. But as soon as there are a few real use cases, I will also use bitcoin in everyday life. I believe.” 

Bitcoin on the moon

This belief in bitcoin is echoed by BitMEX itself. Its latest plans include literally taking bitcoin to the moon. Höptner and his team are taking on Elon Musk who has said he would like to take dogecoin to the moon.

“We are strong believers in bitcoin and then we had the chance to send the bitcoin to the moon. That is actually exactly our affair of the heart, to support bitcoin and with it the basic movement.”

While these kinds of stunts gain a lot of attention, the interest in them speaks to the growth in participation overall.

For Höptner, while there will be changes for crypto into the future, fundamentally, bitcoin and cryptos’ purposes will stay the same.

“I think the protocols will look different and we will have different forms of tokens and cryptos, because technically this is also evolving. But the fundamental issue will always be there and it will completely change the entire world of work.”

BitMEX moves into research

A key part of the future of cryptocurrencies and their development is research. BitMEX is invested in this, supporting the development and education.

“There are only a few properly structured research fields on this topic. In other words, it is not yet set up by all of the research and development in the same way as other industries or technologies. That is why we said we have to support this within our modest framework.”

To do this, BitMEX supports developers so they can devote themselves to their research “and don’t go into any start-up driven by money to ensure financial survival,” Höptner says.

In addition to developers, BitMEX supports education on crypto through its Academy.

“Among other things, the focus here is on the differences between crypto and classic trading, spot and derivatives, hot wallets and cold wallets, right up to training programs for crypto traders.”

Comparing apples and pears

For Höptner, it’s not just about understanding how bitcoin or crypto works. He also sees a need for education around the bias and assumptions made about BTC.

“Everyone is always talking about volatility, here apples are being compared to pears. Even when the topic of bitcoin and crime came up at the beginning, nobody was interested in the fact that terrorism was previously financed with the US dollar. Nobody said let’s get rid of the dollar. As soon as it’s the bitcoin, oh god, that’s used to finance terrorism. I think you have to try to take the discussion to another level.”

He especially considers the backlash against the move by El Salvador to be a particularly good argument for improving understanding.

“These are exactly the right steps. You need real use cases. They are just given when you get large countries, companies, institutions to accept it as a means of payment. There has to be constant discussion and educational work. Even if we celebrate how big the crypto market is – it is negligibly small compared to the traditional market. Unfortunately, it is also influenced by populist statements.”

Sustainability and growth

While supporting the growth and adoption of cryptocurrencies, how this growth occurs is important to Höptner.

He explains that climate-neutral energy is becoming increasingly important for BitMEX. However, he doesn’t place the issue squarely on the cryptocurrency. Rather he sees sustainability as a development issue.

“The energy discussion has long proven, I believe, that bitcoin is not the greatest energy guzzler. When you introduce a substituting industry or technology, the balance is negative as long as what it is replacing is still there.” 

“The blockchain is supposed to replace large parts of the financial system. The classic ones still exist. So that’s an artificial discussion for me. Let’s look at industrialization. It wasn’t climate neutral in the beginning, and it got better over time. Technologically, we are still at the very beginning. And with every further iteration of the protocols and also the way in which the algorithms are calculated, the energy consumption also changes,” he explains.

BitMEX is attempting to become as environmentally friendly as possible. However, Höptner does not pretend that this is straightforward.

“Which is of course not easy with an exchange, which by definition consumes energy by trading. But I think that must be the goal.”

“We have only just announced the goal, and now we have to see how we can best implement it. You can do it in the short term by donating something per kWh. But I think we have to take a closer look at how we can do it differently.”

“You have to learn to walk before you can run”

For Höptner it isn’t just about improving on what already exists. He believes that building the mainstream and moving forward also has to do with bringing what works with you.

“I firmly believe in bitcoin and the blockchain. But I also always say, ‘you have to learn to walk before you can run.’ For this to become a mass movement, you have to act differently. In principle, you have to take some of the established positions with you.”

“That’s why I believe that the issue of licenses will become important. The regulator says. ‘I don’t care what technology you use. You can use racing pigeons, or you do it all yourself, but if you fulfill a certain role, then I expect that you have the license to do so.’ So our direction is not just brokerage but also licensed brokerage. We are now preparing the company to be licensed in a recognized jurisdiction. And we will then also manage to bring many into the space who have nothing to do with the topic yet.”

BitMEX going forward

Like the crypto space, BitMEX is also evolving. In the future, it plans to expand not only in its products but also in reclaiming its spot among the crypto greats.

“We have a very ambitious plan and are in a massive hiring process. In order to actually regain the position we once had – innovation driver. “

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Alex completed her Bachelor's Degree in Oriental and Asian Studies at the Friedrich Wilhelms University of Bonn, then studied German as a foreign language at the Goethe Institute and completed her Master's Degree in Arabic studies at the Free University of Berlin. She has been working as a crypto journalist since 2017.

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